This is not what architect Peter Eisenman had in mind when he designed the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a field of concrete slabs (or stelae) on a 4.7 acre site between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate: “The stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.” (Wikipedia)

It’s possible that the man hopping from stone to stone like Q*Bert in the photo above is enacting some sort of postmodern commentary on Eisenman’s intentions — after all, “losing touch with human reason” is second nature to some of us, and “an uneasy, confusing atmosphere” is what we like to call “the modern condition.” Either way, instead of remembrance, introspection, and grief, the 2,711 stones seem to invite inappropriate behavior. Visitors can be seen sunbathing on the stelae, playing hide-and-seek, or eating curry sausages.

Other scandals and failures accompanied the memorial: the stelae were covered in anti-graffiti paint by Degussa, a company that produced Zyklon B for the gas chambers, the stones are already beginning to crumble, light fixtures are broken, and Der Spiegel reports that in the darkness, drunkards from a nearby club come to urinate and horny couples screw in the maze.

Perhaps R. Mutt would have enjoyed the Stelenfeld’s playground repurposing, but there is a harsh lesson here about the disconnect between artistic intention and actual use; clearly, the memorial’s symbolism is too arbitrary, too wide open to interpretation, to produce the desired effect. I don’t know of another memorial that fails on such a spectacular scale.

Chillin' at the Holocaust MemorialCracks in the Holocaust Memorial

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