Daniel Libeskind’s Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin Opens Today

Exterior Rendering; Courtesy of Studio

It’s been nearly twelve years since visitors first experienced the emotionally charged design of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin. Since then, the museum has become an world-renowned icon whose public and education programs have more than doubled in size. With an ever-expanding archive and library, it was decided the museum should be supplemented by an additional facility.

Today, alongside museum officials, Daniel Libeskind celebrates the opening of the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The facility was created from a former Flower Market (Blumengrossmarkt), whose shell undergirds the new structure. It’s 25,000 square foot, one story space now houses a library, archives and education center, along with additional office, storage and support space.

A sneak peak and the architects’ description after the break…

Facade Close-Up © Bitter Bredt

In-Between Spaces

Daniel Libeskind’s design for the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin links the building to the museum’s other structures and open spaces, both thematically and structurally.

One of the first things visitors see upon entering the piazza leading to the building are the words of the great medieval Jewish scholar and philosopher Moses Maimonides. His famous adjuration, “Hear the truth, whoever speaks it,” is splashed across the left side of the façade, a reminder that those who delve into history must be prepared to accept what they find regardless of the source. The five languages in which the charge is given – English, German, Hebrew, Arabic and the original Judeo-Arabic of medieval Spain – reinforce that message while also suggesting the universal nature of truth.

On the right, a large downward-sloping cube bursts through the façade. Its unusual contours echo the jagged shape of the museum’s 2001 extension, designed by Mr. Libeskind and visible across the street. That shape is also a variation on a theme found in the museum’s Garden of Exile and Glass Courtyard, also designed by Mr. Libeskind and opened 2007 and 2005, respectively.

Interior © Bitter Bredt

Two large skylights, visible from the piazza, rest atop the cube. Shaped like the Hebrew letters Alef and Bet (A and B), they are another reminder of the importance of learning and knowledge to the human experience and of their centrality to Jewish life.

After passing through a large gash in the cube that serves as the Academy’s entryway, visitors are decanted into transitional space comprising two more huge cubes. Thrust forward at odd angles, the cubes, which house the library and the auditorium, form a jagged triumvirate with the rear end of entrance cube.

The movement and interaction suggested by the cubes’ shape and placement and by the seemingly rough-hewn timber (actually radiate pine timber) used to fabricate them suggests the sort of crates used to transport precious objects, including books. They also suggest Noah’s Ark, which preserved the most precious thing of all – living beings, in all their splendid variety – during the most important voyage in biblical history.

Entrance Hall © Bitter Bredt

“In-Between Spaces,” Mr. Libeskind’s name for his design, describes the transitional area among the three cubes. It also alludes to the different perspectives offered by that unique vantage point. Standing on that spot, looking into the hall and out on to museum’s other structures and spaces, visitors are ideally placed to reflect on the museum’s larger purpose and their own experience of it.

Mr. Libeskind stated: “My ongoing collaboration with the Jewish Museum Berlin is a source of tremendous professional and personal pride. Each project offers a fresh chance to illuminate Jewish history and culture, to understand the tragedies and the triumphs, and to celebrate the resilience, creativity and erudition that have been Jews’ enduring legacy.”

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Daniel Libeskind’s Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin Opens Today" 17 Nov 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=294685>
  • Gatto Nero

    More corny symbolism, crude shape-making and lots of wasted and unusable space from Libeskind. How can one man be so consistently awful?

  • Irving T.

    Yet again, Libeskind has reduced the complex culture and history of Judaism to a few cheap symbols, some corny one-liners and the forms of disposable packing crates. He is a disgrace to his own past and should be ashamed of himself.

  • Walt

    His consistentcy is allowed, encouraged even, precisely because he reduces the complex, as a critical and objective mindset is tolerable by few and feared by many. Don’t count on the “Libeskinds” to change the status quo, share your own insight.

  • Paspartout

    Another lost opportunity. The museum could have been (and should have been), about the Jewish experience. By reducing the project to his formulaic response, using his cliched forms and the usual diagonal gimmicks that are nothing more than his brand, Libeskind made the project all about himself. His craving for attention overrides any possibility of ever investigating the design problem in a serious way. The feeble-minded post facto attempts to rationalize the forms only serve to highlight the complete absence of any intellectual basis for any of his work.

  • emre

    why are you not posting my comment?

  • Cupola

    Libeskind’s formula
    - glance quickly at client’s program
    - prepare doodle with standard twisted shape / wedge / crystal
    - add diagonal lights or slanted windows
    - sign lower corner of dumb sketch
    - give to intern to convert to CAD
    - write dumb commentary
    - send inflated bill to client
    - move on to next project.

  • Donovan

    How do you spell “washed up hack architect”?
    (Hint: It begins with “Li …”)

  • Atelier1

    If Libeskind designed this space for the Adolph Hitler Archives the forms would be exactly the same. He’d rationalize it differently, but the exact same slashes and wedges and tilted forms would be there. He can’t help himself. It’s all the poor fool knows how to do.

  • Transform

    All he’s got is some sloping walls? Will someone please donate a brain to Daniel Libeskind so he can try putting some thought into his work.

  • PoCoNo

    Dear Mr. Libeskind,

    Exactly HOW do these shapes reflect the Jewish Culture? Or any culture? Just once, try to convince people and see how far you get before thet openly laught at you. And why is the exterior text at random angles? Mindless caprice, perhaps? And why use forms that look like packing crates? Why not replicate Noah’s Ark? Or a Menorah? Or something equally meaningless? Are you so desperate for attention that this silliness is all you can come up with? Are you so intellectually and aesthetically bankrupt that you have to resort to the same tired and worn out solution for EVERY single project? Huh? – What is wrong with you? Do you want me to recommend a good psychiatrist for you?

  • Tomas P

    I thought Libeskind had bottomed out with the Dresden Military Museum. I guess he found a way to go still lower.

  • Kahn Fan

    More capriciously angled walls and skylights in the shape of Hebew letters. Libeskind is totally desperate now, clutching at straws. What’s next for him? A whole building shaped like a menorah?