Field of Otherness – Peter Eisenman

“Architecture, I believe, is necessary to mark collective memory.” One of the leading contemporary American architects, Peter Eisenman, here shares the thoughts that went into building the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and how he sought to transform a feeling of “being lost in space in time” into the memorial.

Eisenman shares how he didn’t want to use Jewish symbolism in the memorial, but rather have “a field of otherness, where people understand that to have been a Jew in Germany was ‘other’. And what was it like to be ‘other’ in space in time? And that’s how we came up with the field.” It had nothing to do with the Holocaust symbolically, he explains, but was inspired by his conversation with a woman, who had survived Auschwitz. Upon being separated from her mother, she had had a terrifying encounter with Josef Mengele, which made her feel alone and lost in space: “I wanted that feeling of being lost in space to inhabit the memorial.” Getting to what he describes as “the popular level” was also important to Eisenman – having kids play in the memorial, not realizing its connotations, and then going home and sharing their experience with their grandparent, who have an entirely different approach to it: “They feel it, but they don’t know what it is.” In connection to this, Eisenman emphasizes that the memorial is now a public space, and should be allowed to be precisely that: “It’s not about guilt… I don’t feel that the German volk today are guilty, no more guilty than we are voting Trump in.” Finally, Eisenman comments on the connection between architecture and memory: “Architecture collects collective memory.”Louisiana Channel

Peter Eisenman was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his studio in New York City in January 2020.

Credits:
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by Klaus Elmer
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020
Supported by Dreyers Fond

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