Military History Museum, Dresden
The purest Libeskind structure of all
Daniel Libeskind himself suggests the Military History Museum in Dresden is the “purest Libeskind structure” to date. That it should have been a cause of great contention ever since it opened in 2011 comes as no surprise whatsoever. An avant-garde wedge-type building in steel, concrete and glass now punctures the pomp of the previously uniformly neo-Classicist arsenal built in 1877, an age in which there were fewer moral qualms where issues of war were concerned. The debates that Libeskind triggered with his project in Dresden, a city of a somewhat conservative persuasion in such matters, will neither have surprised nor bothered him greatly.
An institution such as this that tells of the horrors of war and seeks to arouse feelings of compassion amongst its patrons simply cannot afford to ingratiate itself. The building schedule first foresaw returning the three-winged, cream-coloured sandstone building to its original state. Roughly a fifth of its structural substance was then removed to accommodate a new building 97.5 feet high at the front and 65 feet high at the back. Part of the ground-floor vaulting in the listed structure was likewise sacrificed. Finally, the “wedge tip”, which is shaped to resemble a bomb crater, was replaced by a glazed steel skeleton 140 tonnes in weight. The actual wedge, by contrast, was made in concrete and weighs far more.
Such provocative dissonance is continued inside and underpins the scheme’s innovatively open style. The museum tour again and again entails the public negotiating the new part of the building, in which the affirmative display of military equipment makes way for a study of its uglier consequences. The doors and windows in Dresden’s Military History Museum are operated using FSB handles from the 1070 series. The handle’s symmetrical circular styling with matching round roses avoids all brashness and yet never looks insignificant, making it particularly suitable for public buildings.
Photos: Jan Bitter