Between the lines: Jewish Museum Berlin

Two lines of thinking, organization and relationship. One is a straight line, but broken into many fragments, the other is a tortuous line, but continuing indefinitely.” Conceptually, Libeskind wanted to express feelings of absence, emptiness, and invisibility; expressions of disappearance of the Jewish Culture. The Jewish Museum Berlin opened in September 2001 and is one of the most spectacular museum buildings in Germany.

The entrance to the Jewish Museum Berlin is through the baroque Collegienhaus (Old Building). Alongside the ticket counter, cloakroom, and visitor information desk, the Old Building houses the museum’s temporary exhibition rooms, event rooms, the museum shop and Liebermann’s restaurant. The postmodern Libeskind Building, the Glass Courtyard erected in 2007, and the new Academy opened in 2012. Zig-zag best describes the form of the Jewish Museum’s New Building. The first line is a winding one with several kinks while the second line cuts through the whole building. At the intersections of these lines are empty spaces, “Voids”, which rise vertically from the ground floor of the building up to the roof. Libeskind imagines the continuation of both lines throughout the city of Berlin and beyond.

The Voids represent the central structural element of the New Building and the connection to the Old Building. From the Old Building, a staircase leads down to the basement through a Void of bare concrete which joins the two buildings. Five cavernous Voids run vertically through the New Building. They have walls of bare concrete, are not heated or air-conditioned and are largely without artificial light, quite separate from the rest of the building. On the upper levels of the exhibition, the Voids are clearly visible with black exterior walls. The Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman’s steel sculpture “Shalechet” (Fallen Leaves) covers the entire floor of one of the five Voids. The Garden of Exile is reached after leaving the axes. Forty-nine concrete stelae rise out of the square plot. The whole garden is on a 12° gradient and disorients visitors, giving them a sense of the total instability and lack of orientation experienced by those driven out of Germany. Russian willow oak grows on top of the pillars symbolizing hope.

A visit to the Jewish Museum is a leg to stand on to discover Berlin that it is very attractive for all visitors of all ages: from young people, who find here a lively and active ambiance, to the adults, who, during their stay, they can explore important themes of the contemporary history. Berlin has an history that everybody knows: the city has been divided into two sections on 1989 and it is still visible the pains of separation and  the atmosphere of great respect and suspension that is felt in some areas of the city that seduces and it reflects upon ourself.

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