Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Jewish Museum

Between the Lines – The Jewish Museum – Daniel Liberskind

The psychology of space is an agenda that can affect a person on a multitude of levels. Space designed for the intent of creating an emotion is potent, surreal and encapsulating.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin, designed by Daniel Liberskind pushes boundaries in design, comfort and questions the accepted ideal of what a museum is to be. It addresses issues of an “unsavoury” past in a controversial context.

Although the official name for the project was the “Jewish Museum”, Liberskind called it “Between the Lines”. One line of organisation and another of relationship. Organisation is a line that although is generally straight, it diversifies into man facets. Relationship is a line that although unpredictable and uncontrollable, it moves in a particular direction that is always forward. With this, Liberskind addresses the issues of past and present and more specifically, how one captures a moment in time and resolves the relationships and accepted worldly organisation of the past with the unknowable of the future.

Much debate has transpired as to whether one is able to encapsulate an immense topic as the Holocaust in a building, and whether it is appropriate to resolve the agenda in the fashion that Liberskind did. If one looks at the façade of the building, one notices arbitrary slashes in the zinc envelope. Liberskind took prominent Jewish figures and joined their residential addresses on a map from that time, and superimposed those lines on to the building. One could take this idea further by addressing the nature of these “organised” cuts. People generally say that the cuts look like knife wounds. Scars that are left from the Holocaust. Internally, one is confronted with many metaphors which psychologically challenge the visitor. One also notices that pockets of calm occur within the building, especially at these cuts. The cuts allow light to gently calm the spaces, and almost act as a closure to such a vicious history. One is able to contemplate the issues put forward by the museum, and still feels a sense of hope for the future.

6 Voids are found along the axis of continuity. These voids add to debate of whether the building is appropriate as a museum. They are empty, unheated, inaccessible spaces that declare that the topic of the Holocaust is an agenda that although discussed, debated and researched, can never be entirely understood and resolved. Only one of these spaces is accessible. It’s floor is covered with rusted metal disks that when walked upon, echo throughout the tower in a very unsettling manner.

One is able to write a thesis on the multitudes of metaphors defined and hinted to within this building. Every corner, line, window, garden and stairwell pushes the accepted envelope of museum design and creates a space that forces the user to address the issues of the Holocaust and millions of lives lost as a result.

Between the lines of organisation and relationship define a project that is esoteric and tectonic. One that presents a museum space, but subtly says so much more. Between the lines of organisation and relationship says those things that no one wants to say, says them with eloquence, and power.

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