Designing a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe was no easy task. After 17 years of debate, the memorial was finally opened in May 2005 (Chin). Designer Peter Eisenman built an abstract memorial that avoids all symbolism and aims to allow visitors to create their own interpretations without structure. According to Eisenman, “the horror of the Holocaust was so great that attempts to represent it in a traditional way were inevitably inadequate” (qtd. in Mahlum 282). The monument’s lack of representation and symbolism makes it very different from most memorials, which tends to give viewers a strong sense of identification. “The absence of symbolism reduces it to mere presence” (Marzynski). This memorial is not about what is seen, but about the feelings of the viewer.
The grand scale of the memorial evokes a “feeling” on site. It consists of 2711 concrete slabs or monuments arranged in a grid on 4.7 acres (Brody). The concrete slabs are rectangular in shape with clear lines.
To the east of the site, a staircase leads to the underground gallery, which uses high-tech screens to present the history, providing a figurative complement to the abstract site form itself, and assuming a historical educational function.
Analysis of the method
Regarding the monument on the ground, Eisenman made this building in a discrete way, by dividing the blocks to achieve an overall homogeneous pavement on the site and a local dynamic deformation, reflecting the continuity and unity of the design.
2. Math and Displacement
Eisenman used MATH and DISPLACEMENT on the ground undulation, making the height undulation change.
The uneven ground and the different heights of the slabs achieve an undulating appearance. At the perimeter of the concrete site, the slabs are very low to the ground, but when one walks down the narrow alley between the slabs to the center of the memorial, the slabs are higher than one’s head.
In RachelWickham’s analysis, the distinction between “share memory” and “personal memory” is also reflected in the different heights