Past, Present and Future Message in Jewish Museum, Berlin

Throwing back to my university life, I remember that there’s one architect who inspire my study and design. At that time I had to do thematic studio assignment about museum and should find one architect as precedent. I choose to design a museum about 30 September movement. The museum is about the people, communist party, the tragedy, and the controversial history in Republic of Indonesia. At that time I use Daniel Libeskind’s building : Jewish Museum as my precedent. I search the information from online media and found the video. I am so impressed about the building, details, the spirit of the space, the concept, and everything inside. I got so much inspiration from Daniel Libeskind’s idea and it comes to the result that my design was selected as best thematic design studio in UGM Architecture magazine. I am so thankful that I could manage to visit this museum last May. I came to this museum and I think this museum has strong feeling of the Jewish history. I can’t believe that to be in this museum in real life is helping me to understand Daniel Libeskind’s building. This museum has a strong power to attract the people to come in and let us to have a deep feeling about the Jewish tragedy.

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“I believe that this project joins architecture to questions that are now

relevant to all humanity. To this end, I have sought to create a new Architecture

for a time which would reflect an understanding of history, a new

understanding of Museums and a new realization of the relationship

between program and architectural space. Therefore this Museum is not

only a response to a particular program, but an emblem of Hope.” -Daniel Libeskind-

It is common for us to see various display and long explanation while we are inside the museum. Some people enjoy reading and some people don’t. This Jewish museum has less explanation but it provides space and atmosphere experience which are impressed me a lot.

This Jewish Museum is a representative of the Jewish struggle throughout history, which Libeskind defines in three major experiences : continuity, exile, and the holocaust/death. It is a reflection of the consistent Jewish presence in Berlin’s past, present and future.

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This building fill with the grayish zinc panel, hard angular and lines, cold atmosphere, arrogant and show a huge contrast to the baroque building. But this building is actually not arrogant because the entrance is hidden and located inside the baroque building. It means that this building respect the environment and let the guest explore the baroque building first before entering the Jewish museum.

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When we enter the museum we will be in the first part of the museum called The Axis of continuity (the longest axis). It holds the primary line of sight from the stair landing and leads us to the permanent exhibition (on the second level). This axis ends with a partial view of the ascending staircase of a full three stories. In my opinion, this axis represents about Jew’s life. It leads us to Jew’s past history : the garden of exile, the holocaust, the void of memory and the ascending staircase tell us about hope of the Jews in their future life.

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There’s one part of the museum called The Holocaust. I think is the space which impressed me a lot. There’s a Fallen Leaves (Shalekhet) art installation by Menashe Kadishman in this space. The art installation are 10,000 open mouthed faces coarsely cut  from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor. The text panel in the museum said that this exhibition dedicates it to all innocent Jews victims of violent and war . Also the title “Fallen Leaves” raises suggestion both negative predestination and of hope for new life in the coming spring”


When you walk into this cut iron, there’ll be noisy voice and it’ll raise an uncanny and uncomfortable feeling. It might represents the feeling of the Jewish in the holocaust tragedy.

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It is stated on the museum that :

The Garden of Exile,

49 columns filled with eart are arranged in a square, standing vertically on a slanting floor.

Olive willows grouw out of the columns.

The garden’s form –a square- is the only completely rectangular form in the building.

“One feels a little bit sick walking through it. But it is accurate, because that is what perfect order feels like when you leave the history of Berlin.”

-Daniel Libeskind-

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This interesting part of this museum is called The Garden of Exile. It consist of 7×7 square grid, has 49 concrete pillar (each with a living olive tree at the top), the ground and column tilt about diagonal, 10 degrees up from the subterranean entrance crating an off-balance feeling. This space’s main purpose is to create a disjointed and uncomfortable experience. The message from Daniel Libeskind is to offer the corporeal correspondence to the disquiet and disorientation of Jews emigration.

I think the void , holocaust space, circulation, material, slanted halls, claustrophobic , and disorientation spaces of this Jewish Museum create mysterious and uncanny experience. This kind of feeling leave a deep impression for me and it’s impossible to be forgotten. I remember word from Daniel Libeskind about his way of thinking for design and create this sense for his masterpiece.

“I always remember the words of St.Augustine : Everyone is permanently leaving but some are leaving with their ankles and feet, and others are leaving with their hearts and souls.” –Daniel Libeskind-

I think this museum is a place that you have to visit once in a lifetime.

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Photo credit : Fani Atmanti

3 thoughts on “Past, Present and Future Message in Jewish Museum, Berlin

    • Milka, ya that’s so true. From the outside people can feel the dramatic feeling from the sharp facade. This feeling will be stronger when you walk into underground and visit the 3 main spaces from the museum which tell us about the tragedy of Jewish.

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