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I’m Alper Kokcu. Join my journey where I am exploring cultures and ideas via the connection of art, nature and architecture.

Jewish Museum in Berlin

Jewish Museum in Berlin

Jewish Museum in Berlin is a project by Daniel Libeskind, which was selected from among 165 competition entries in the summer of 1989, couple of months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The construction of the museum did not start right after the competition, but it was completed in 1999 and it opened its doors to the visitor in 2001.

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But if you will go there and search those doors on that shiny zinc facade with irregular lines on it, you won’t be able to find them. The new Jewish Museum was built just next to a former Baroque courthouse (the Kollegienhaus or the Prussian Court of Justice), dates back to 1735, which was designed by architect Philipp Gerlach. The visitors can enter only that old building and then descend by stairs to the underground, where these (new and old) buildings are connected.  

By this, architect aims to bind these two together in the depth of time and space. This leads you to three underground routes with different stories each: The longest one leads you to the exhibition spaces, emphasizing the flow of the history. Here you are passing corridors and stairs, where all of them intercept and cut each other quite often.

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The second leads you out of the building, right into the Garden of Exile and Emigration, commemorates those who were forced to leave Berlin. Here you are in a pit where some concrete blocks are rising. Their movement to the sky is not straight up and this creates an effect of a fall. The spaces between the blocks are also disturbingly narrow, which supports this approach. But a green plantation is growing on their tops, which can be read as keeping the hope, maybe.

The Garden of Exile and Emigration in the Jewish Museum, from outside.

The Garden of Exile and Emigration in the Jewish Museum, from outside.

The last route in the Jewish Museum leads you to a dead end, the Holocaust Tower. This is one of the most impressive spaces in the museum. You are being allowed to get inside in groups, so everyone can feel the atmosphere without being disturbed by the crowd. Once you are in, they are closing the door.

It is a tall and dark tower, where concrete walls are rising while creating a sharp corner and on the top of that corner there is a small opening where natural light is tearing the darkness. Again as an idea of hope.

However, that tower is huge and the light through that hole is like a candle glaze, rather than a strong torch. This definitely speaks to our senses and shows that architecture can bring a silent message. I’ve seen that some people could not stand to spend time there and rushed themselves out.

Another impressive void…

Another impressive void…

… with metal faces on its floor. Some people are getting on them for taking photos, but I couldn’t step on them.

… with metal faces on its floor. Some people are getting on them for taking photos, but I couldn’t step on them.

Jewish Museum in Berlin caused numerous opinions. Some finds it extraordinary, some not tempting at all. For some others the museum is just a reflection of architect’s ego. And more reviews are showing up themselves with every new building Daniel Libeskind designs.

Using the almost same architectural elements on other buildings and programs, which he used on this museum, I believe can be discussed deeply. However, it is a fact that by designing the Jewish Museum, Daniel Libeskind talked to our senses and showed us the way how architecture can speak. It is worth to try to learn that language, as it is a great way of communication of human kind.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin should be considered not only on the technical issues but also on its theoretical approaches as well. Daniel Libeskind himself calls this museum as ‘Between the Lines’, as for him it is about two lines of relationship: One is a straight line, but broken into many fragments and the other is a torturous line, but continuing indefinitely.

Have you been in Berlin and visited the Jewish Museum? Write me down below, what did you feel over there?

Hope

Hope


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