Voids - Die Leere im Jüdischen Museum Berlin (German Edition)

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The shifts bring down the scale, create variety, can make what is essentially a neutral form responsive to local conditions, and will let light in while allowing views out in unexpected ways. The third rule is to hallow the box with light and sanctify it with emptiness. This strategy works especially well if one is designing a church, as Florian Nagler did in Munich-Riem. The outside of this concrete box is clad with white brick, the inside has no angles, no soft surfaces and nothing other than some luscious translucent windows to detract one from the spiritual beauty of pure forms in light — though the Catholics in this double church get a more luxurious version of that almost nothing.

In this architecture, everything is brought down to the point where it is not quite nothing, but a very refined and expensive something: a few lines, frames and dimly present shapes that attempt to remind us of architecture even as it seems to disappear. But Germany also has a more forceful form of box making, exemplified by the Pueblo House in Oelde, by Matthias Schmalohr.

The architect had this concrete addition to a classic, white stucco-clad gabled suburban house colored in a dusty pink hence the name.

The Jewish community in Germany today

Fourth rule of the box: One can make boxes that are not just efficient reductions, deformed, and grandly empty, but also assertively about themselves as autonomous expressions of the art of making form as shelter. At the very edges of the box, in more ways than one, there is its disintegration into materials that deny its coherence.

Thus the fifth and last rule of the box is that it always tends towards its own dissolution. This used to be what German architects did with glass, as Hascher Jehle proved in such a composed manner in the Stuttgart Kunstmuseum just a few years ago. Now this work is being carried out in subtler and yet more assertive materials. Wandel Hoefer Lorch, who had previously twisted the Dresden synagogue off of its square plinth, this last year designed the Jewish Center in Munich as what appears to be a classic concrete box, but turns out to be a complex assembly of loose-fitted stones with no base, top or any other indication that they have not just been piled one on top of the other.

From behind this accumulation of building blocks, a glass-clad tower behind which a wood block shimmers rises in uncertain and ethereal elegance. These are only the most expressive and noteworthy boxes. All over Germany, as well as Switzerland, Austria and many other countries, simpler boxes contain houses and apartments, gymnasia and libraries, offices and schools.

The Jewish Community in Germany: Living with Recognition, Anti-Semitism and Symbolic Roles

The box is everywhere. It is good to remember that in many ways there is nothing particularly innovative about the new German box. In it, architects are elaborating strategies developed during the s, mainly in England and Switzerland, while at the same time operating within the limited field provided for individual expression in situations in which reuse and efficiency are the most important qualities clients and authorities ask for.

One could even speculate that the box is a metaphor for a society retreating into itself, into the safety of the suburban home with its controlled air and light and its television and internet, or behind walls of xenophobic traditions. On the exhibition floors, orientation is less of an issue as the narrowness of the building has forced the museum to create a set route for the public. However, any attempts to deviate from this route, for example in order to find the toilets, can result in confusion particularly as such facilities were not adequately signposted.

In fact even finding the exit at the end of the exhibition is challenging, as visitors have to double-back on themselves in order to leave the display areas. These issues are something that the staff is aware will need additional attention, particularly during the first year or so. Each floor is long, narrow and with several zigzagging turns. The exhibition is displayed along a set route, both chronologically and thematically, including areas entitled: Beginnings, Religious Life, Families and Middle Class Life, the Modern Age and Urbanity, Completion and Collapse of Emancipation, and After In this sense, it appears Libeskind was more concerned with the overall architectural scheme than museological and visitor requirements.

As previously stated, the exhibitions in the Jewish Museum Berlin have been divided into themed sections covering German Jewish history in all its breadth. The museum attempts to highlight the similarities and the differences between Jewish and German lifestyles, traditions and progression from the Middle Ages to modernity. Picking out individual characters for the visitor to concentrate on is a well-known method of achieving empathy and understanding in an audience, while also making it easier for visitors to take in information effectively.

All labels and text panels are in both English and German, using language levels accessible to children without being patronising to their adult audience.

While such labels may not necessarily satisfy those with an extensive prior knowledge of the subject, the staff clearly states that the aim of the museum is to educate and inform primarily young people and family groups with little or no background knowledge in the area Gorbey , Heuwagen Whether the failure of these interactives was due to over-use in the first week of opening, more serious design faults or mere teething troubles was also impossible to assert. Low-tech interactives, such as pull-out drawers, flip up panels etc.

This is really more of a cinematic presentation of a CAD reconstruction, which however interesting does not actually link particularly effectively with the rest of the exhibition in that area. The presentation has a German voice-over with good explanations, which unfortunately have been reduced to little more than keywords in the English translation. This disappointment is heightened by the fact that the subtitled translation is more often than not so badly mistimed as to appear below completely the wrong image, confusing and frustrating the non-German speaking visitor and there are many , rather than informing them.


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The fact that a large proportion of the exhibits are loan items either from other museums or private collections, as well as the many replica and reproduction items on display has raised the debate as to the need for a specific Jewish museum rather than a memorial. However, the obvious emotional aspect to German-Jewish history has made this debate rather difficult to conduct objectively.

The contrast between the confined spaces crammed with artefacts and information at the beginning of the exhibition and the sparse, cold-seeming and bare areas which deal with the Holocaust is stark, whether the design techniques used register with the visitor or not. By using a minimum of exhibits in this area, not only is this sense of human and cultural destruction heightened, but it also avoids reusing the graphic images of concentration camps, to which many people have unfortunately become desensitised. Artists were commissioned to create installation pieces for some of these voids, in order to strengthen their effect.

Unfortunately this installation was incomplete at the time of visiting the museum. However, the idea of allowing visitors to create their own image of an object through these means does seem an effective means of presenting the loss of cultural artefacts. The other artists commissioned to produce work for the museum were Michael Bielicky and Menashe Kadishman.

However they all appear to have found this to be a positive experience. Therefore the exhibition spaces are on the one hand totally inadequate - they are cut across by natural light, and they are long and corridor-like [ Libeskind has been kept informed of the plans for the exhibition design but was not allowed to influence the process despite any objections he may have had to various points ibid.

The first exhibition area along the visitor route contains artefacts from the Middle Ages which are cluttered together in the narrow space. The corridor-like nature of much of the exhibition space has caused some problems, for example some artefacts could not be displayed due to lack of space at the relevant point on the route. Presentation of the collection also had to take into account the fact that some ceilings and floors in the building appeared to be slanting, due to the strong diagonal lines of windows, air-conditioning etc. Schneider, B.

However, Libeskind did also provide neutral spaces which do not affect the exhibition design any more than the standard black box museum building. In the short time that the museum has been open to the public, critics are already divided on the success and interaction of both architecture and exhibition. The slashed window openings, often attacked along with the rest of the building as being unsuitable for the display of museum objects Spens , allow in a limited amount of daylight and give visitors the opportunity to look outside and attempt to reorientate themselves geographically Schneider, B.

The voids also play a beneficial role in addressing museum fatigue in that they interrupt the large amount of display areas and provide respite from the fatiguing business of taking in exhibitions. The problem of museum fatigue is an issue which even Gorbey was concerned about K.

However, Gorbey considers the architecture to also be an aid in helping to prevent museum fatigue, as visitors will look at it almost as much as at the displays, thereby unconsciously refreshing their eyes and minds. Not just taking from its surroundings, but also contributing. Enlivening, transforming. It sings, it tells stories. It takes you by the elbow and points things out to you. Apart from the orientation problem, other aspects of the architecture appear to address museum fatigue positively.

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Every gallery is provided with a set of stools which the visitor can move around in order to either look outside, or to examine a display case with greater ease. Comfortable seats with backrests can be found with many of the audio-visual displays and interactives, although it would also be desirable for similar seats to be placed in other gallery areas and near the stairs. The top floor of the building houses the offices, workshops and library, and therefore has a greater number of windows to provide the necessary daylight. The stores are apparently adequate, perhaps not surprisingly given the limited nature of the collection, but an additional off-site facility for other needs is already in use K.

The main problem in terms of space is that the original brief estimated a maximum of , visitors per year, and the current projections of , mean that public facilities such as toilets will be totally inadequate K. Although there are lifts for disabled access, they are rather small and not necessarily close to the stairs, giving the impression of segregating those visitors able to use stairs and those not.

Various parts of the exhibition are too narrow, reachable only via stairs or placed just too high for wheelchair users to be able to access them successfully. The exterior paving designed by Libeskind consists of uneven bumps and different surfaces, which will also be difficult for both wheelchair users and those with mobility problems to cross safely.

International Journal of the History of Education

The museum shop and restaurant are housed in the old building of the Berlin Museum, perhaps intentionally to keep the commercial aspect of the museum separate from its sensitive subject matter. The discrepancy in the original and current visitor projections also has a major impact on the services and maintenance needs of the building. The air-conditioning for example, had to be overhauled at some expense in order to cope with the greater numbers of visitors expected K.

Whether this view will stand the tests of time and use remains to be seen.

Many feared that this would disadvantage the museum Liebs , Schneider, R. However, an architectural icon as a museum building can also benefit the museum by means of its instant recognisability, in the same way as an advertisement, or marketing message Borg in Toy It is clear that a number of people have been attracted to other museums, such as the Guggenheims in New York and Bilbao or the Centre Pompidou, due to the architecture being almost a work of art in its own right.

Libeskind contends that he aimed to create a structure that would prevent the museum visitors from becoming nostalgic.

Instead he wanted the building to act as a catalyst that would move the public and strengthen their memory and awareness in Rauterberg The architecture has not had a detrimental effect on the exhibitions presented, as was feared, and it goes some way to addressing the problem of museum fatigue. The difficult orientation created by the building can no doubt be solved by additional signage and perhaps by the creation of a specific orientation area in the basement level. The Jewish Museum Berlin shows how working in harmony with the architecture, however challenging or initially controversial this may be, creates a more unified and effective overall result for the museum.

Therefore, despite the problems mentioned earlier in this review, such as bad orientation, the failure of interactives and difficulties caused by the building, the overall impression left by the museum is positive. The exhibitions may not satisfy subject specialists or museum traditionalists, however this museum has always stated that it aims to appeal to a broad international audience, which is exactly what it does.

Hopefully, rather than resting on its laurels for too long, it will continue to listen and update itself in the future. Brawne, M. Architecture and Display London: Architectural Press. Davis, D. Dean, D. Donzel, C. Falk, J. Henderson, J. Lampugnani, V. Leach, N. Levin, M. Lumley, R.