Libeskind Zigzags in Berlin
by Lili Eylon
In an unprecedented happening, more than 300,000 visitors went to see a totally empty museum. During the 18 months between completion of the structure and its official opening, the edifice itself became an attraction in a city bursting with building fever.
The new Jewish Museum in Berlin, a striking deconstructivist structure by architect Daniel Libeskind, is made chiefly of titanium-covered zinc — a durable, stable, and malleable metal that reflects the light. The museum rises from a base whose line is frequently broken and unwinds in zigzag fashion.
Opened on September 9, 2001, the building is located on Lindenstrasse, the old border between East and West Berlin. The floor plan follows a fractured pattern similar to the Star of David that Jews were forced to wear in these streets during the Nazi regime.
Building as Symbol
The 108,000-square-foot (10,000-square-meter) building's special features include spiraling walls, sloping floors, a windowless Holocaust Tower, and symbolic lines of windows that resemble wounds. Libeskind says that the idea of the jagged lines is to disorient the visitor.
The "void," an empty space that runs the length of the museum, consists of raw, blank concrete walls, with no insulation, heating, or air conditioning. The void is visible to but cut off from the viewer. It is meant to structure the building like a backbone, furnishing its unfolding curves with a central axis. Through its inaccessibility, the void points to that which is absent, has vanished, but that must still be made present.
The titanium-clad Jewish Museum in Berlin by deconstructivist architect Daniel Libeskind.
Photo: Herbert Hoeltgen
The museum's zigzag floor plan is meant to resemble the Star of David.
Photo: Jewish Museum, Berlin
Click on thumbnail images
to view full-size pictures.