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Jewish Museum in Berlin designed to disorient and create anxiety to visitors

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Weekly Architectural Insight

  • Berlin Jüdisches Museum designed by architect Daniel Libeskind is one of the world undisputed museums and architectural gems.

  • It is located next to the former Baroque courthouse Kollegienhaus designed by Philipp Gerlach, that served as a Jewish department.

  • The museum is a stunning architectural achievement of cultural identity with an attempt of integrating physically and spiritually the meaning of the Holocaust into the memory and consciousness of people of Berlin.

  • This lightning-bolt shaped building is connected with the old building, where the new structure itself seems like a separated building but not having a formal exterior entrance, is connected by three underground passageways.

Plan View of the Museum Structure

The visitor must endure the anxiety of hiding and losing the sense of direction before having to choose between the three underground routes.

Looking at it from a birds view some would assume the interior would be as straight forward as its exterior, a zig-zag corridor. However, the interior spaces are extremely complex. Libeskind formulated promenade leads for people to go through galleries, empty spaces and always get into dead ends.

There are slits for windows with a result of only a silver light stripe is entering a space with the whole purpose for visitors to experience what the Jewish people during WWII felt, such that even in the darkest moments where you feel like there is no hope in escaping, a small trace of light restores that hope.

Drone picture of the Museum Structure

One of the most emotional and powerful spaces in the museum is a 66 feet (20 m) tall void that runs through the entire building. Also, adding a cold and overwhelming atmosphere to space are the bare concrete walls. Furthermore, the only light source in the room is a small slit that is located at the top of the room's space. The ground is covered in 10,000 coarse iron faces, as a symbol of the lost during the Holocaust.

The building is less of a museum or just space to house the museum. The building itself is an experience depicting what most cannot understand nor imagine.

“The Jewish Museum is conceived as an emblem in which the Invisible and the Visible are the structural features which have been gathered in this space of Berlin and laid bare in an architecture where the unnamed remains the name which keeps still.” -Daniel Libeskind


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