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

pg 92 – My first professional encounter with Yad Vashem occured in 1976…. “Tolka” arad, then chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, had invited me to design a museum in memory of the children who were murdered. I was given access to the archives and spent days viewing remnants of lost lives. I began to appreciate the nuance of information versus contemplation, confrontation versus meditation. I realised that the visitor emerging from he history museum will already be saturated with information. The children holocaust memorial must therefore be about reflection

pg 93 – The Yad Vashem management reacted with caution and scepticism to my proposal. “People might misunderstand… they might think discotheque” The proposal was shelved. It took a visit of survivors, Abe Spiegel and his wife, edita, who lost their two-year old son in Aushwitz, to resurrect the project.

Obituary Abraham Spiegel, Holocaust Survivor and Wealthy Philanthropist, Dies at 97

The childrens memorial (completed in 1987) was to rpove essential preparation for the great task ahead: to rebuild and reconceive the entrance and museum complex at Yad Vashem – including a new reception building, public services, parking, a new Holocaust history museum, galleries for holocaust art and changing exhibitions, a synagogue, and hall of names- while preserving the administration building, archives, and school and restoring Ohel Yizkor, the Hall of remembrance, which opened in 1961

pg 94 – 95 – The story of the Holocaust is too terrible, uniquely cruel and shameless in the annals of civilization, to be told in normal “galleries” traditional architectural constructions with doors, window frames, hardware, and other detailing. I began thinking of my visits to places created deep in the earth that might provide insight, cappadocia, with its underground cities; and the subterranean chamber of Beit Guvrin in the hills southwest of Jerusalem. I also recalled a photograph that had come my way of the great spaces cut into a stone quarry in spain.

pg 96 (didnt want ornate to show passion etc) only concrete could acheive a sense of the symbolic extension of the monolithic bedrock, free of joints, mortar, or any other embellishments.

pg 96 – The mevoah is thus a framed concrete screen wall, roofed by glass and a delicate trellis. Jerusalems constant sun breaks into an endlessly changing pattern of shadows, a lacework of dark and light lines, dematerializing all who pass within it. “did you mean this to evoke the patterns of the striping of the clothing of the concentration camp inmates?” asked a visitor. I responded that each person will create his or her own associations and symbolic interpretations- architecture is not about prescribing what you ought to feel or think.

pg 96 – The dialogue that ensued between curator, exhibit designer, and architect was intense.

pg 99 – From the outset of the process i felt burdened by the knowledge that the last chapter of the museum, the unwritten chapter, is the most difficult of all. This was apparent in every Holocaust memorial museum i had visited. After the buildup of Nazism, after the death camps, the resistance, the inexplicable dehumization and random death – after the documentation of a black era in history – then what ? [[talking about the opening at the end]] great sense of renewal and the urbanizing hills beyond is to understand that , indeed , life prevailed. we prevailed. It is at this moment in the museum that existentially differentiates Yad Vashem from every other Holocaust museum and memorial.

pg 101 –  No design i have ever undertaken was so charged with symbolic associations. It seemed that every move, form, shape, and sequence elicited multiple interpretations and endless debate. Now that the public has experienced the complex, i am amazed at the diversity of interpretations and reactions. When i am there i often become a voyer, watching visitors reactions and listening to their conversations. I have always wondered if architecture is capable of evoking the same emotions that we experience listening to music. At Yad Vashem i am constantly aware of how intensely personal the feelings provoked are, and how individual and particular. It is at these moments that i feel architecture can, however rarely, move us as deeply as music can.



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