Libeskind's memorial to an exiled artist
Daniel Libeskind's first completed building opened this week in Osnabruck, Germany. The Felix Nussbaum Building houses over 160 paintings and graphic works by Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum, along with temporary exhibitions and information about the artist's life. Born in Osnabruck in 1904, Nussbaum had to live outside Germany following the rise of fascism, and in 1944 was deported to Auschwitz, where he died.
Libeskind's timber, concrete and zinc building is an extension of the Museum of Cultural History, once the local hq of the Nazi party. The 2424m2 extension contains 890m2 of exhibition space, as well as a foyer, presentation room, cafe, offices, workshop, archives, storage, and circulation space.
Based on a system of reference lines which symbolise Nussbaum's constant movement, displacement, and exile, elements in the new complex are offset from each other and from the existing buildings. Sloping floors, constant changes in orientation, and the strategic positioning of windows create a thoroughly disorientating effect. Entry is by a pathway which marks an axis between the city centre and a now incinerated synagogue which once stood behind the site. The path crosses an arched bridge, dating from 1671, rediscovered just before construction started. Visitors can turn right into a tower-like 'vertical museum' which will house temporary multi-media installations, or left onto the main gallery space.
Libeskind was commissioned by the City of Osnabruck after beating almost 300 entrants in competition in spring 1995. Watermann-Dr. Ehlers was the structural engineer, Cornelia Muller & Jan Wehberg the landscape architect, and Jan Dinnebier the lighting consultant. Reinders & Partner was responsible for cost and site control. The project started on site in September 1996 and was completed for a total construction cost of 14.6 million dm, including restoration of the seventeenth-century bridge.