‘Hear the truth, whoever speaks it’. These are the words emblazoned across the façade of Daniel Libeskind’s latest major project, the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin, an institution he extended some eleven years ago with a glittering angular expansion project that received mixed praise.
Translated into English, German, Hebrew, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic, this provocative quote from medieval Jewish scholar and philosopher Moses Maimonides welcomes visitors as they stroll across the piazza which links the existing Jewish Museum Berlin and Libeskind’s latest addition.
The Museum has an ongoing relationship with Libeskind. He designed the institution’s extension in 2001 in an acutely angled zigzag form and added two expressive landscaped areas known as the Garden of Exile and Glass Courtyard in 2007 and 2005 respectively.
An established architect of Polish-Jewish descent, Libeskind has said of his latest project: “My ongoing collaboration with the Jewish Museum Berlin is a source of tremendous professional and personal pride. Each project offers a fresh chance to illuminate Jewish history and culture, to understand the tragedies and the triumphs, and to celebrate the resilience, creativity and erudition that have been Jews’ enduring legacy.”
Following the reopening of the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2001, the organisation has seen a vast improvement in interest for its education programmes, with 7,000 guided tours undertaken every year and more than 400 educational programmes in demand from visitors. In order to cope with demand, Libeskind was brought back on board to conceptualise a fitting Academy extension located on a one-time flower market to house these symposia, conferences, lectures and seminars.
This latest project continues Libeskind’s abstract references to religion. In the original extension to the Museum he based his design on a stretched Star of David. In this more recent addition, Libeskind has crafted the interior spaces using radiate pine timber, said to ‘suggest Noah’s Ark, which preserved the most precious thing of all - living beings, in all their splendid variety - during the most important voyage in biblical history’.
For the architect, the most significant internal volumes are the ‘in-between spaces’, those located between three large-scale cubes that sit at angles to one another, housing the library, auditorium and entranceways. Libeskind has retained these as reflection spaces, where visitors can take a moment to consider the information presented to them and their experience in the Academy.
The gateway cube ruptures through the external façade and welcomes visitors through a void in its exterior. Sloping gentle towards the ground, ‘its unusual contours echo the jagged shape of the museum’s 2001 extension’. The two further cubes are linked by a glass box which glistens in the artificial light.
Linking the new Academy with the original Jewish Museum Berlin complex will be a Diaspora Garden designed by landscape architects from atelier le balto. This contemporary garden scheme will be planted as part of the Academy’s ongoing education programme.