The Holocaust Memorial – Berlin

Also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold.  The huge site spans 19,000 square metres, which is covered with a grid pattern of 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, symbolizing tomb like sculptures.  These sculptures vary in height from 0.2m to 4.8m, and represent a contemporary approach to the stereotypical concept of how a memorial should appear.

Eisenman states that the memorial is “designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason”.  I find that statement sums up the site perfectly because of the way it made me feel when I was there.  I liked how the grid layout made you feel safe as you could always see a way out in the distance, yet still gave a sense of uneasiness because you could hear people in close proximity around you, yet couldn’t see them as they were behind different stelae.

The use of varied scale of the sculptures created a feeling of intimidation the further you went in to the site as your view over the top of the concrete slabs disappeared, restricting your view to merely down the pathways. Another aspect I liked about this element in the design was the way you could interact with the memorial.  I understand that may seem a strange comment to make about concrete blocks, but because of their varied heights, each could be viewed differently.  Some could be sat on, others stood on, while I was there some of the members on our group used the shorter ones as stepping stones to allow themselves to stand on some of the taller ones, creating great views over the whole site.  Views changed at different levels, which I believe shows an element of control implied by Eisenman, to control the way you view the memorial.

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