I was overwhelmed by all the things to do and see in Berlin, and was particularly moved by the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish (Jüdisches) Museum, two of the city’s major sites of Jewish history and culture.
A dose in photographs:
Designed by architect Peter Eisenman, the Holocaust Memorial is made up of about 2,700 concrete columns, arranged in a grid that’s at once methodical and disorienting. Head into its shadowy center, and the pillars grow taller and more menacing. Above, a slanted perspective from the ground.
A view of the memorial from the outskirts of the grid. The area consists of 4.7 undulating acres, creating subtle waves in the ground and causing the concrete slabs to rise from different levels. While there are clean lines, straight edges, and a sense of order, the maze ultimately feels chaotic (and uninviting). You wander in silence down empty pathways; hear faint footsteps of others but are unable to see them; and feel the coldness of the concrete.
The deeper you go, the darker it gets. And depending on the time of day, the shadows will play games with you. Each angle captured with your camera is unique—many viewpoints and surfaces create distinct snapshots.
A clip through the maze:
Jewish (Jüdisches) Museum
The new complex of the Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind, stunned me. The facade above is located near the entrance of the older Baroque building, where visitors enter the museum. Coated in zinc, the building is shiny, gray, and imposing; the only windows are random “gashes” in the walls, like the ones pictured above. Libeskind leaves his design, both inside and out, open to interpretation; to me, the exterior is reminiscent of open wounds. Tears in skin. And sporadic rays of light. Visually stunning and evocative.
And here’s what these gashes look like from the inside:
The absence of proper windows makes the interior suffocating at times—as you wander the exhibit, you see glimpses of the museum’s gardens and the city’s streets, but the connection to the bright outside world is limited.
The new section of the museum is composed of “voids,” which are described not as museum spaces, but rather representations of what was lost in Jewish history and culture. The Memory Void, an installation by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman, is especially chilling: a long, narrow room covered with “Fallen Leaves”—piles of screaming faces.
You walk across these faces respectfully, and no matter how gingerly you move, the sounds created are loud and abrasive. You hear these screeching sounds from the adjacent gallery—the echoes are eerie.
Aside from the “fallen leaves” on the floor, the Memory Void itself is very bare, with drab, windowless concrete walls. It’s not heated (nor air-conditioned), and was quite cold when I visited. Truly stark and harsh.
A sampling of the void’s sounds:
For more photographs from my trip to Berlin, check out Flickr: Berlin 2011.
- Art in Ruins: Inside Berlin’s Kunsthaus Tacheles
- Berlin’s Kunsthaus Tacheles: The Ultimate Junkyard
- Berlin’s East Side Gallery: Remnants of the Wall
- Notes on Travel & Childhood
- Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg: Flohmarkt am Arkonaplatz
- Tonight in the Alexanderplatz: Guten Abend from Berlin