Déjà vu for Libeskind

Friday 06 May 2011

Libeskind’s cohesive extension to first completed project opens in Osnabrück

Sure to split the critics, Daniel Libeskind’s angular extension to the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück was opened yesterday at a ceremony attended by the architect, Lord Mayor Boris Pistorius, and City Councilor Rita Maria Rzyski. The existing building was Libeskind’s first completed project; a heavily symbolic museum consisting of three interlocking volumes comprised of oak, concrete and metal.

Speaking on Thursday’s events the architect commented: “It is such an exciting moment to return to the Felix Nussbaum Haus, my first completed project. As an architect it is a great honour to be asked to design an extension to this museum for the city of Osnabrück. It is a true celebration that the museum for Nussbaum (who was once a forgotten artist) is growing and expanding not only architecturally but also in our hearts and minds.”

Dedicated to the work of German-Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum, the Museum displays a chronological stream of works by the artist. The oak portion hosts compositions created before World War II, the concrete unit intersecting the first displays pieces composed which Nussbaum was in hiding from the Nazis, and the third, metal volume exhibits paintings recently uncovered.

The extension to this suggestive museum acts a gateway to the complex and merges the inflow of visitors with that of the neighbouring Osnabrück Cultural and History Museum through an enclosed glass entranceway. This joint access route is combined with an irregular new façade which refreshes the external appearance of the existing 13 year old volume.

Taking around one year to complete – during which time the most precious of Nussbaum’s paintings were displayed at the Jewish Museum in Paris – the expansion cost €3m and incorporates an entrance hall, museum shop, flexible lecture hall and event space, caterings facilities, cloakrooms and restrooms for both buildings.

UK newspaper The Times formerly critiqued the Felix Nussbaum Haus harshly, commenting that the ‘narrow tunnel and subdued lighting impose an atmosphere of oppression’, yet the new crystalline bridge looks to inject an air of light and space into what has previously been referred to as an expression of ‘displacement, loss and incomprehension’. Libeskind explains: “The integration of the new extension with the present symbolises that the memory of Nussbaum will have a vibrant and ongoing narration.”

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