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 Berlin 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…
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.
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.
“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.”