Yad Vashem – Moshe Safdie – The architecture of memory (by joan ockman)

pg 19 – Also Known as Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembranec) , Yad Vashem’s forty five acre site is located on the western slopes of Mount Herzl, a hill that houses Jerusalem’s military cemetery as well as the national cemetery where Israeli leaders are laid to rest. in 1957 the first building opened with administration, archive, and library facilities, followed in 1961 by the ceremonial hall of remembrance and a basic exhibit. A museum containing a more permanent exhibition was inaugurated in 1973.

pg 20 – commences a harrowing but unapologetically affirmative journe that recounts the history of the holocaust from its origins in the vibrant culturally rich jewish communities of Europe through to its conclusion – not in the “solution” .. but rather in a redemptive and triumphal Zionist “homecoming”, emotionally evoked by a recording from the 1930s of a childrens choir from Mukacevo, singing “Hatikva”(the hope), which would become the Israeli National anthem. (talking about the balcony) see distant horizon … evidence of human habitation. (the idea of the final solution not working and civilisation still exists)

pg 21  – turns the vistors abruptly to the left upon entering. The gesture not only arrests the visitors steps for a moment before setting him on the circular route to the rights, but creates a driect confrontation with the museums south face, an extruded and vertically compressed fifty foot high triangle. This figure establishes the leitmotif of the building. it also serves as a projection wall for a filmic montage, created by the artist Michal Rovner, that draws fragmentary archival footage depicting Jewish life prior to the Nazi persecution.

 

pg 21 – inside , along the nearly six hundred foot length of the tunnel, the already compressed triangular geometry is likewise visceral, constricting to its narrowest diameter at one of the darkest points in the curatorial narrative – the extermination of more than 1.1 million Jews at Auschwitz Birkenau – before eventually widening to a generous equilateral conclusion

pg 22-23 – historically and archaeologically layered as Jerusalem, have relied heavily on contextual references – arches and yellow limestone, for example – albeit abstracted into his own language. At Yad Vashe, however, the architecture calls the very idea of context into question. Since the diasporic experience of the Holocaust is not about place but rather displacement. (up until zionist “return”), Safdies decision to construct the museum in the alien, industrial material of concrete rather than in the prescribed Jerusalem limestone – a decision for which he had to get special permission from the municipal building authorities – has particular resonance.

pg 23 The three-sided figure (the triangle form) morphs in the viewers imagination from primitive shelter or tent , to half star of David, to fir tree, to an ark filled with survivors, to more ominously, the pitched roof of a train shed full of deportees or a gas chamber at Treblinka

pg 24 – If the curatorial mission at Yad Vashem is to name the names of those who perished in the Holocaust, even as it is the fate of so many to remain nameless, then the architectural mission is to establish, however paradoxical, a place of displacement.

pg 25 – One of the rare instances where scenography overtakes the function of simple and eloquent presentation and facts coexists uneasily with artifice is in the penultimate gallery, the hall of names. Here a cable-suspended zinc-clad dome overhangs a deep reflecting pool ringed by an elevated viewing platform, while along the perimeter of the circular space binders containing the pages of Testimony of Holocaust victims fills rows of shelves… the collaboration and counterpoint between curatorship and architectural design remain admirably balanced and harmonious.

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