September 27, 2007
Berlin gains another tourist attraction as Libeskind’s glass courtyard opens
A new glass courtyard by architect Daniel Libeskind opened Tuesday at the Jewish Museum Berlin, offering more much-needed space for the one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
“Berlin will gain another architectural attraction which will draw Berliners and tourists alike,” museum director Michael Blumenthal told reporters ahead of the official opening ceremony. “The museum will finally have a large hall in which to hold its diverse educational and cultural events.”
The new glass structure in the courtyard of the museum’s old building, which was erected by Philipp Gerlach in 1735, is the second construction by Libeskind, who also designed the museum’s zinc-coated, zig-zag-shaped main exhibition hall.
The $11.5 million glass-and-steel structure symbolizes a sukkah, a temporary hut crafted in celebration of the Jewish holiday Sukkot, a harvest festival that also commemorates Jewish desert wandering after the exodus from Egypt.
The transparent roof covers a 602-square-metre space, with convoluted glass facades that mirror the sky and trees of the museum’s garden. Up to 500 visitors can be seated in the new room, which will provide additional space for cultural events and serve as an extension for the often very crowded entrance area. Since its opening in 2001, over four million people have visited the museum.
“We very much need this courtyard,” Blumenthal said, adding that on some days more than 3,000 people visit the museum. “We are getting more visitors than we ever expected and had a huge shortage of space.”
Libeskind, who came from New York for the opening, said he was “thrilled” by the design.
“It is really a living organism,” Libeskind said of the glass courtyard. “It’s a dynamic space where you can dream a little bit, especially if you look at the outside garden.”
The first building designed by Libeskind has been celebrated as a memorial to Jews in Germany, its jagged structure evoking a deconstructed Star of David, suggesting structurally the dramatic break in history wrought by the Holocaust.
Earlier this year, the City of Munich also opened a new Jewish museum.
Since reunified Germany’s government introduced laws in 1990 encouraging Jews to immigrate, thousands have come here, mostly from the former Soviet Union. According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, an estimated 250,000 Jews now live in the country, making it the fastest growing Jewish community in the world.
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