Friday 27 October 2017

The W. Michael Bluementhal Academy

The W. Michael Bluementhal Academy, Berlin.

We went to the Academy after our visit to the Jewish Museum as it's located across the road. The building opened in 2012 on the site of the former wholesale flower market which was refurbished based on Libeskind's 'In-Between Spaces' design. It's made up of three tilted cubes and two office wings that have been built into the existing structure.

The building is home to the museum's library with a public reading room, the museum's archive, an event hall and seminar and workshop rooms where educational programmes for children, teenagers and teachers are held.

The cubic form is a variation on the theme found in the museum's Garden of Exile. Daniel Libeskind has thus linked the Academy to the existing museum architecture both in context and in expression of form.

The first cube, which forms the entrance to the Academy, penetrates the fa├žade of the building and creates a counterpart to the frontage of the Libeskind building across the street.

The cube is illuminated by skylights in the form of alef and bet, the first two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, referencing the research and educational work done at this site.

In the hall's interior, the two other cubes, tilted towards one another, house the auditorium and the library with its adjacent reading room. Between the three tilted cubes a space emerges that allows views both into the interior and outside.

These 'In-Between Spaces' visually link the Academy to the museum.

The wood-panelled cubes are intended to evoke transport crates on the one hand, and Noah's Ark on the other. The cubes symbolise the bequests that come to the Jewish Museum from around the world, which are kept in the Academy to make them accessible to a wider public.

One can get a good view of one of the tilted cubes from the Diaspora Garden.

In the inner courtyard is the Diaspora Garden. Designed by artists from the 'atelier le balto' landscape architecture studio, the garden reflects aspects of life in the Diaspora.

Four steel 'plateaus', or planting beds, seem to float in the air, each surrounded by a wooden platform. The plateaux can be arranged and used in a variety of ways. Each one is planted according to a different theme: landscape, culture and soil, and nature and humanity. The fourth one serves as a testing ground for the participants in educational programmes.

The plants thrive in an unusual environment - with no direct contact to the earth, little natural light, and artificial irrigation. Selected from different climate zones, the plants have to adapt to their new environment. They live scattered across the world, in the Diaspora.

Most of these plants have a special connection to Jewish life. Some, bear the names of Jewish people, others play a role in the Jewish holidays, and some of the plants' folkloric names refer to anti-Jewish sentiments.

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