Visu­al Arts

Daniel Libe­skind and the Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Muse­um: New Jew­ish Archi­tec­ture from Berlin to San Francisco

Edit­ed by Con­nie Wolf
  • Review
By – January 11, 2012
This beau­ti­ful vol­ume show­cas­es four dra­mat­ic Jew­ish muse­um projects designed by Daniel Libe­skind. Pub­lished in con­junc­tion with the open­ing of his most recent project, the Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Muse­um in San Fran­cis­co, this book also fea­tures the Jew­ish Muse­um Berlin, the Felix-Nuss­baum Haus in Osnabruck, Ger­many, and the Dan­ish Jew­ish Muse­um in Copen­hagen. The accom­pa­ny­ing essays, by an art his­to­ri­an, a Juda­ic stud­ies pro­fes­sor, and Libe­skind him­self, effec­tive­ly explore the sym­bol­ic poten­tial of Jew­ish archi­tec­ture through abstract and spir­i­tu­al dimen­sions in the Euro­pean muse­ums and in a more cel­e­bra­to­ry con­text in San Fran­cis­co. 

The text suc­cess­ful­ly describes these four sig­nif­i­cant Libe­skind build­ings, and the large and arrest­ing pho­tographs effec­tive­ly draw us into the architect’s vision, includ­ing his inte­gra­tion of old­er exist­ing build­ings into the new muse­ums. The book is less clear in defin­ing the mean­ing of Jew­ish archi­tec­ture” in the case of the San Fran­cis­co muse­um. The three Euro­pean muse­ums include Holo­caust-based themes and exhibits and are there­fore eas­i­er to cat­e­go­rize and under­stand as Jew­ish muse­ums and Jew­ish archi­tec­ture.” The essay­ists are more chal­lenged with the San Fran­cis­co build­ing. While beau­ti­ful­ly inte­grat­ed into a his­toric struc­ture and with­in its urban con­text, the museum’s expres­sion as a Jew­ish build­ing” is less clear as it relies large­ly on implied abstrac­tions of Hebrew let­ters in an open struc­ture built for pro­grams and tem­po­rary exhibits. This book should appeal to read­ers inter­est­ed in Jew­ish expres­sions in con­tem­po­rary design and cul­ture, and in the work of this promi­nent Jew­ish architect. 

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