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K I N D

L L I BES
DA NIE N T O T H E
N
D I T I O R L I
AD EUM BE
M U S
W I S H T O R Y
JE H H I S
W I S P H O R
JE M E TA
O U G H
THR

JOSH MOLLMAN ARCHITECTURAL THEORIES + CONCEPTS AUTUMN 2014


INTRODUCTION
THESIS
In his addition to the Jewish Museum Berlin, completed in 1999, Daniel Libeskind
communicates the displacement and disassociation of the Jewish people in Germa-
ny through his use of metaphor, fragmentation, void, and disorientation.

BACKGROUND
Daniel Libeskind is a Polish-American architect who has been practicing since com-
pleting his education in the 1970s. His works are most concentrated in Europe and
more recently the United States, and many are related to Jewish culture and history
(“Daniel Libeskind” 2014).

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INTRODUCTION
PHILOSOPHY
Libeskind believes in architecture as a form of communication:
“For me, a building is a medium to tell a story. It’s not only about itself” (Quoted
in Libeskind & Goldberger, 2008).
“Architectural space, as I see it, has to be part of the story it’s trying to com-
municate. It’s not just a container to be filled; it’s part of the symbolism of the
building. And the symbol transports you beyond the material reality and, in ar-
chitecture, toward that which language itself cannot fully articulate” (Quoted
in Libeskind & Goldberger, 2008).

As a deconstructivist, Libeskind often uses explicit metaphors of fragmentation in


his works, especially in regards to historical events like wars and the Holocaust.

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CASE STUDY
OVERVIEW
The addition to the Jewish Museum Berlin, completed in 1999, “exhibits the social,
political and cultural history of the Jews in Germany from the 4th century to the pres-
ent” (“The Libeskind Building”). Libeskind himself states the three main idea which
formed the foundation of the museum:

“First, the impossibility of understanding the history of Berlin without un-


derstanding the enormous intellectual, economic, and cultural contribution
made by its Jewish citizens; second the necessity to integrate the meaning
of the Holocaust, both physically and spiritually, into the consciousness
and memory of the city of Berlin; third, that only though acknowledging
and incorporating this erasure and void of Berlin’s Jewish life can the his-
tory of Berlin and Europe have a human future”
(Quoted in Libeskind & Goldberger, 2008).

“During the design


process, the architect
Daniel Libeskind plot-
ted the addresses of
prominent Jewish and
German citizens on a
map of pre-war Berlin
and joined the points
to form an “irrational
and invisible matrix”
on which he based the
language of form, the
geometry and shape
of the building” (The
Libeskind Building).
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CASE STUDY
CONCEPT
The building’s overall composition is that of a distorted Star of David, with a straight
“void” running through the length of the building. Heavy with symbolism and meta-
phor, the building uses fragmentation, void, and disorientation to reflect the three
aforementioned aspects of Jewish history.

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CASE STUDY
EXTERIOR
The most obvious element of the building’s exterior is the fragmented Star of David
from which the plan is derived. This is combined with the contrast of the straight line
of the void, which can be seen from above in the form of roof elements. Libeskind
states, “One is a straight line, but broken into many fragments, the other is a tortu-
ous line, but continuing indefinitely” (Quoted in “The Libeskind Building”).

“Void”

The theme of fragmentation can be seen


in the overall “tortuous” lines of the plan,
but also in the window placement. Libes-
kind plotted the addresses of Jewish citi-
zens on a pre-war map of Berlin and used
the matrices to determine the form of the
windows—a less obvious but no less pow-
erful metaphor. The theme can also be
seen in the lack of right angles or symme-
try in almost any part of the building.
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CASE STUDY
EXTERIOR (CONT.)
While the voids of the interior cannot be seen as clearly from the exterior, the frag-
mented form still creates voids within its own form. Additionally, there is an extra
void building which serves as a Holocaust memorial and stands completely empty,
which Libeskind describes as a “voided void” (Quoted in Libeskind & Goldberger,
2008).

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The theme of disorientation is also less clear at the exterior level, but the general
lack of hierarchical structures or a clear path to or from the addition adds to the
theme. The contrast between the old baroque structure and the newer addition
may also leave visitors confused.

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CASE STUDY
INTERIOR 1/2
The main metaphor of the interior of the museum is the void metaphor. Libeskind
states that the straight line void cutting through the museum “is the space of Berlin,
because it refers to that which can never be exhibited when it comes to Jewish Ber-
lin history. Humanity reduced to ashes” (Quoted in Libeskind 1999). The space is
organized in such an unavoidable way that “visitors must cross one of the 60 bridg-
es that open onto this void” (“The Libeskind Building”).

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In addition to the void, the fragmentation


of the building is clear in the jagged win-
dows and beams crisscrossing above the
display spaces.

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CASE STUDY
INTERIOR 2/2
The other main metaphor of the building’s interior is the split entry route, where
visitors are faced with choices mirroring the choices of Jews during the Holocaust:
“The descent leads to three underground axial routes, each of which tells a different
story. The first, and longest, traces a path leading to the Stair of Continuity, then up
to and through the exhibition spaces of the museum, emphasizing the continuum
of history. The second leads out of the building and into the Garden of Exile and
Emigration, remembering those who were forced to leave Berlin. The third leads to
a dead end — the Holocaust Void.” (“The Libeskind Building”)

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CASE STUDY
GARDEN OF EXILE
First and foremost, the garden, which visitors move through as they exit the muse-
um, “represents an attempt to completely disorient the visitor. It represents a ship-
wreck of history” (Libeskind 1999). Libeskind achieves this disorientation by tilting
the floor. This is especially effective considering the garden appears to be the only
structure in the museum to be composed on a grid system of right angles.

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Additionally, the vegetation is placed
on top of the structural elements,
leaving the earth “remote inside
concrete columns, roots above, hard
ground below, and vegetation inter-
twined above – out of reach” (Libes-
kind 1999). This will also serve to
disorient a visitor, whose usual con-
ception of a garden features plants
rooted in the ground.
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CASE STUDY
SUMMARY
Daniel Libeskind uses metaphor, fragmentation, void, and disorientation in ways
described in the table below to communicate the suffering of the Jewish people in
and out of Berlin.
EXTERIOR INTERIOR GARDEN
•Star of David •3 paths of Jews •“Shipwreck of his-
METAPHOR

•Idea of void •Dead ends tory”


•Window forms from •Unavoidability of void •Earth “out of reach”
map lines
FRAGMENTATION

•Star of David, distort- •No straight paths •Lack of fragmenta-


ed •Chaotic beam place- tion (only orthogo-
•Irregular window ment nal grid in building)
forms •Void literally cuts •Garden pushed to
•Lack of right angles through interior top of columns

•Holocaust Tower, •Not heated or •Empty space be-


“voided void” air-conditioned tween columns
•Lack of displays •“Tombstones” are
VOID

•Span all floors anonymous


DISORIENTATION

•Irregular form •3 paths at museum •Illusion of regulari-


•Lack of hierarchy entrance cause con- ty, structure
•Contrast between old fusion •Tilted floor and
museum and addi- •Dead ends sculptural forms
tion •Plants out of
reach, sight

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CONCLUSION
Daniel Libeskind’s addition to the Jewish Museum Berlin utilizes symbolism and
metaphor, including fragmentation, void, and disorientation, in order to create a
more substantial museum experience for the visitor. Rather than presenting infor-
mation as museums often do, Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin uses these effects
to communicate the aspects of Jewish history, especially the Holocaust, which can-
not be expressed in only words.

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TEXT REFERENCES
Curtis, W. (1996). Modern Architecture Since 1900 (3rd ed.). London: Phaidon.
Daniel Libeskind. (2014). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved fromhttp://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/
topic/914364/Daniel-Libeskind
Daniel Libeskind: Welcome to the 21st century [Video file]. (1999). In Films On Demand. Retrieved November
9, 2014, from http://digital.films.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=17906&xtid=10500
Libeskind, D. (1999). Jewish Museum, Berlin: Architect, Daniel Libeskind. Amsterdam: G & B Arts Internation-
al.
Libeskind, D., & Goldberger, P. (2008). Counterpoint: Daniel Libeskind in conversation with Paul Goldberger.
New York: Monacelli Press.
The Libeskind Building. (n.d.). Retrieved November 9, 2014, from http://www.jmberlin.de/main/
EN/04-About-The-Museum/01-Architecture/01-libeskind-Building.php

“Architecture is not a limited field, even though


many practice it as such. It affects everyone;
it is centrally positioned, so consequently it is
part of film, language, the visual and not visu-
al world. The visible art of architecture makes
us aware of that which is not visible.”
Daniel Libeskind (Quoted in Libeskind 1999).

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IMAGE REFERENCES
Cover: Bitter Bredt. Facade, Window Detail [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libes-
kind.com/projects
1. Guenter Schneider. Aerial View 2 [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/
projects
2. Michele Nastesi. Skyline View [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/
projects
3. Studio Daniel Libeskind. Star Plan [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.
com/projects
4. Building Butler. Model [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://www.buildingbutler.com/bd/
Daniel-Libeskind/Berlin/Jewish-Museum/3752
5. Studio Daniel Libeskind. Early Sketch [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://www.inexhibit.
com/case-studies/daniel-libeskind-jewish-museum-berlin/
6. Studio Daniel Libeskind. Untitled [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://www.e-architect.
co.uk/berlin/jewish-museum-berlin-academy
7. Studio Daniel Libeskind. From Counterpoint: Daniel Libeskind in conversation with Paul Goldberger (p. 25) by D.
Libeskind and P. Goldberger, 2008, New York, Monacelli Press.
8. Bitter Bredt. Paul Celan Courtyard [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.
com/projects
9. Bitter Bredt. Holocaust Tower (left) and Garden of Exile (c) [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from:
http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects
10. Bitter Bredt. Holocaust Tower [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/
projects
11. Torsten Seidel. JMB Void [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/proj-
ects
12. Bitter Bredt. The Void [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects
13. Bitter Bredt. Main Staircase with Structural Beams [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://
daniel-libeskind.com/projects
14. Michele Nastesi. Windows as part of Star of David Matrix [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from:
http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects
15. Three Axes [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://aformulatedphrase.com/category/muse-
ums/
16. Michele Nastesi. Stair [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects
17. Studio Daniel Libeskind. From Counterpoint: Daniel Libeskind in conversation with Paul Goldberger (p. 37) by
D. Libeskind and P. Goldberger, 2008, New York, Monacelli Press.
18. Jens Ziehe. Garden of Exile, Jewish Museum Berlin [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://
www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/04-About-The-Museum/01-Architecture/01-libeskind-Building.php
19. Michele Nastesi. Exterior View, Garden of Exile [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://dan-
iel-libeskind.com/projects
20. Bitter Bredt. Void [Photograph], Retrieved November 9, 2014 from: http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects

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