The Jewish Museum Berlin, which opened to the public in 2001, exhibits the social, political and cultural history of the Jews in Germany from the 4th century to the present. The museum explicitly presents and integrates, for the first time in postwar Germany, the repercussions of the Holocaust.
The new extension is housed on the site of the original Prussian Court of Justice building which was completed in 1735 and renovated in the 1960s to become a museum for the city of Berlin. The new design, which was created a year before the Berlin Wall came down, started with the identification of a common feature that bound together both East and West Berlin: the relationship of Germans to Jews. This connection was used to plot an irrational matrix that makes reference to the image of a compressed and distorted star — the yellow star that had historically been worn by Jews on the same site.
A void reaches from the roof of the Baroque building to the underground and housing stairs which descend beneath the original foundation and connect to the new building above. The descent leads to three underground axial routes, each of which tells a different story. The first, and longest, traces a path leading to the Stair of Continuity, then up to and through the exhibition spaces of the museum, emphasizing the continuum of history. The second leads out of the building and into the Garden of Exile and Emigration, remembering those who were forced to leave Berlin. The third leads to a dead end — the Holocaust Void.
The Holocaust Void cuts through the zigzagging plan of the new building and creates a space that embodies absence. It is a straight line whose impenetrability becomes the central focus around which exhibitions are organized. In order to move from one side of the museum to the other, visitors must cross one of the 60 bridges that open onto this void. In 2004, the Jewish Museum Berlin commissioned SDL to design a multifunctional space that would provide additional room for the museum’s restaurant and extend the lobby to provide event space for lectures, concerts, and dinners. The glass courtyard which was ompleted in 2007 creates an adaptable space which can be used throughout the year while preserving the open courtyard qualities of the baroque building.