Jewish Museum

Standing high in Kreuzberg Berlin, the Jewish History Museum stands out with its highly post-modern architecture. As you enter through the Baroque Kollegienhaus, there is a stark contrast to the new, dark, angular building. As with many of Berlins new decadent and highly modern buildings, the Jewish Museum was built through an anonymous competition which went underway in 1987, in 1988, Daniel Libeskind was chosen as the winner with his design that was said to be the only design that was radical enough to represent the Jewish life before, during and after the holocaust, the building is made of sharp corners and finishing’s, representing to sudden dramatic change that so often took place to the Jewish community. To Libeskind, the building was much more than a physical space to house the history of the Jewish people, it was going to express the new identity of Berlin come the fall of wall. He claimed his post-modern design is supposed to represent the absence and emptiness of the disappearance of Jewish culture. Similarly to the Topography of Terror, the museum overtly presents and incorporates the repercussions of the holocaust for the first time in post-war Germany. As you enter through the old museum, you must enter an underground stairwell which leads into the new, Libeskind said his purpose here was to give the visitor a sense of anxiety whilst not knowing where they are going, and losing control in the directions they take, in correspondence to learning about individuals that endured the heart ache of the holocaust, this creates an unpleasant but important experience. Through the building there is very little light, the small slits in the walls very high up represent a beam of hope shining down; the lack of light and the angular and seemingly diagonal floor contrasts well against many of the modern attributes that are inside.

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One key exhibition through the museum is the Memory Void, a standout and shocking piece is that of the Shalekhet or the fallen leaves. The piece contains over 10,000 open mouthed faces that are carved from coarsely cut iron plates, scattered on the floor. Each face is haunting, as if screaming, the noise that echoes through the room when they’re walked across is also very loud, cutting through the quiet and empty nature of the rooms around. There is a distinct feel of unease as you walk across the faces which for Israeli artist who designed them; Menashe Kadishman, was the goal; to create the appearance of the irretrievable loss of Jewish life whilst creating the unease and shock whilst you walk across. This feeling of unease is carried through the museum as a whole, the rooms are distinctively unconventional shapes, doorways are not handing straight and floors lie at angles to make walking around seem awkward. This corresponds massively with the Holocaust Memorial Site, where the different height blocks and the un-level ground give the feeling of unstableness.

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References:
http://roisinokeeffe.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/menashe-kadishman-shalekhet-fallen.html
http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects/jewish-museum-berlin
http://www.jmberlin.de/
http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/01-Exhibitions/00-exhibitions.php

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