Jewish Museum Berlin

(Renewably) Energizing

All images are author's unless otherwise noted

The Jewish Museum Berlin is perhaps more remarkable for its architecture than its content, not that the latter is lacking in any way. Rather, the museum's fascinating and meaningful design by Daniel Libeskind is simply staggering. The idea behind the museum developed in the 1970s and after decades of differing ideas about how it should proceed, Libeskind entered the city's design contest and walked away a clear winner. His design "Between the Lines" relies on architecture to express much of the museum's meaning. "Voids" (large empty spaces) throughout the museum signify the void in Germany society left by the loss of so many jewish individuals and the combination of the entirely new Libeskind Building with the renovated Collegienhaus, built in 1735, successfully connects history with modern day and invites those who interact with the space to question how space itself can be source for meaning and remembering. Libeskind's architecture is just as much a reason for visiting the space as any other and indeed extends the museum's rich content to an even greater level of meaning. The museum opened in September 2001. (A full history of its development is available from the museum here).

But the space's influence extends beyond remembrance and expresses a unique sustainable vibe. In 2012 a retrofit of the museum to improve its energy efficiency was accepted and funded by the European Energy Efficiency Fund and undertaken by Johnson Controls. 1100 Halogen bulbs were replaced with LEDs and the use of outside air for efficient cooling was improved. Additional systems installed to allow for optimization of energy use throughout the day add even more efficiency benefits. Higher efficiency fans and motors were installed, as were new humidifiers which draw energy from local environmentally energy sources. The energy use of the museum was reduced 46% by the retrofit; CO2 was reduced 55%. The 1.8 million-Euro retrofit will be paid back within 7 years due to the incredible cost savings created through the improved energy efficiency (read more about the retrofit). In an environment where visitors are already receptive to information and, in this specific case, building design, the retrofit has a powerful ability to impart sustainable ideas upon those who interact with the space. The building seems to look into the past, reflect on its relationship with the present, and build a new future.