Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? ….
To this I answer in one word, from experience. … John Locke (1632 – 1704) philosopher and political theorist known to quite possibly the most influential figure in the founding of empiricism.
His theory was to believe that we humans construct our minds and comprehension based purely through our experiences that are provided by the five senses; sight, sound, taste, touch and smell which leads to building our knowledge then shaping our identity through observing and asking.The word Empiricism, extracted from “emperikos”, a Greek term meaning experience; from the root words “en peira ” translating to “in trial/experiment”.John Lockes essay concerning Human Understanding (1690) he denies any claims that humans were born with any form of innate ideas as thought by rationalists. We were born as blank pieces of paper, our experiences teach us and materialize each individual through our sensory encounters and allow us to build and shape ourself through this understanding.However Lockes theory didn’t go without its complications, being born as a blank piece of paper would suggest that we are all born as equal to one another which should be the case. But ideas of people being better or worse than one another in accordance to elements such wealth, bloodline and social class caused implications within Lockes theory more commonly known as Prejudice (preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience), A complication and fight we still face as a country and worldwide to this day in regards to sex, race, sexual orientation and religion.
Education is a key example of Lockes theory, to this day having a better education leads to social advancement, through his impressive theory and knowledge over the years it has been able to be built upon and this leads on to David Hume (1711 – 1776) a Scottish Philosopher know for his most important work and one of the most influential works within the history of philosophy ” A Treatise of Human Nature”. In this Hume agrees with Locke but builds upon this theory explaining how “the extent and force of human understanding” is effected by passion rather than reason and argues this against the rationalists ” reason is, and ought only to be the slave to the passions”. He raises questions about causality, this is the term that is the generic connection through phenomena (one event that leads to another) . An example of this would be the weather forecast.
.. This is an analysis of the weather in a certain area but only based on an assessment of likely developments, so the forecast says it is going to rain.
However there is no evidence to suggest that this is 100% accurate and it will rain at 4 O’clock because there is only a consistency in which it has been correct in the past, therefore in empirical terms there is no verification. Therefore the reason in which we act to something is purely based upon probability because something cannot be certain and that common sense tells you to act in the way you do. This is where Hume explains that our internal emotions are what we rely on to reason the way we act.So how does this movement relate to architecture? Well without knowledge and understanding of anything we wouldn’t be where we are today, over the hundreds and thousands of years people have been passing on their knowledge which is built upon from the next person and so on, allowing us to know as much as we do about so many aspects of the world even the universe and the cause or reasoning behind it all of course including architecture. All this understanding originally spans from our sensory inputs, the way in which we have learned the things we have, through sight, sound, and all our senses, they are what drive our taste for knowledge!So through my understanding there are two primary aspects of empirical ways in architecture.1: Through the use of drawing conclusions and building theories, how the design undergoes various repetitive processes that only after this the buildings forms, atmosphere and its entity of organized spatial relations are produced from this.2: looking at the sensory data that like I previously explained is the key to our knowledge, therefore creating spaces that provide textures and a variety of contrast between spaces, light and dark for instance. The Jewish Museum in Berlin, an amazing piece of contemporary architecture which designed by Daniel Liebiskind to commemorate and remember the Jewish citizens and the terrible happenings of the Holocaust in 1933 to 1945 during the second world war.
In 1988 the city decided to build a new Jewish museum which would replace the old one that was closed half a century before, a competition was held for the design of the new building and 165 architects had entered the competition, one of which being Daniel Liebskind. Unknown he explained his inspiration for the project; Walter Benjamin’s book “one way street” and Schoenberg’s opera “Moses und Aron”. He felt so strongly of his inspiration he wrote his design proposal on musical paper and titled it “Between The Lines”History and Culture…
Two main aspects in which Liebsiknd integrated into his design for the museum, he believed it was so important to understand the events that happened in the Holocaust and enriched himself in knowledge to allow him to have a true and deep understanding of the pain that was inflicted in the dark times.His design..
. A Zigzag shaped form that the people in Berlin nicknames “the Blitz” however the shape has a much deeper meaning,it is in-fact a distorted and stretched version of the Jewish star a very dramatic yet powerful symbol that embarks on the cultural relation betweeen german and jewish past. The individual concept i think is a pefect example of empiricism in architeture becuase of the spacital sequence Leibskind has created which provides visitors with a chilling an unique experience through a prisoners journey.The formation can only really be seen from a birds eye view and is far more discrete from down below and fits in to the neighbouring buildings, respecting the bold historic Neo-classical Baroque Old Building which it stands beside. Despite being a neighbouring building to the museum it the Baroque building also houses the entrance to the Jewish museum.
The movement of the building is not as harsh as it may seem, despite its sharp change in direction and corners many trees are situated on the sight and the presence of one tree in particular makes the building veer off. Other greenery around the site makes the structure more difficult to be seen from the road. Only a narrow fragment sticks out allowing it to blend in to its surrounding environment. There are seven unaccessable voids within the building that reflect the embodyment of absense. The floors are floors slope upwards and the walls lean inwards causing disorientation.A Journey through the buildingThere is no visual link or connection between the Jewish Museum and the Baroque Old building despite entering the museum through the old building.
on arrival you are greeted by a large entrance within the building that is materialized by untreated concrete with bold sharp angles this acting as a warning for the journey ahead…Now unlike many other Museums which hold impressive staircases leading you up to the heavens, Liebskind went for a dissimilar approach and takes you into the foundations of the old building down a subnken staircase to where you start.
Looking up shows you are in-fact at the bottom of a concrete void where the staircase pierces every level through the Baroque building leaving its Jewish mark on the German monument. The surface building hides a more simplistic floor plan below which consists of three corridors guarded by a concrete tower which holds the entrance. A central island is then situated in between the corridors and obscures vision allowing only two to be seen at one time.Three experiences are key within the museum continuity, exile and death. These spaces provide an enhanced experienced that are pro-founded by many elements one being the sharp lines of light in the ceiling that guide you though the compressed passageway. Nearing the end of the corridor a staircase is visible. To what looks like average stairs quickily accends further and further upwards the nearer you get leaving you to embark on your journey to a new level.
But again looking up (similarly in the entrance tower) you are exposed to an amazing perspective above leading from the basement to the third floor……
At the top of the stairs Liebskind ehances space after contracting it to produce a sequence for effect however he only does so by expanding the space upwards but leaving the corridors the same width, leaving the visitor a sense of feeling trapped. Concrete beams hold the walls apart and have a visual view of seeming as if they are struggling. Symbolises the difficulty and struggles the Jews face.
The axis of exile the one that symbolises the leaving of Germany that leads outside into the open air this is where you find yourself in the garden of exile greeted by 49 concrete pillars in which trees are planted within. The loss of a reference point de stabilises the visior and causes them to be unbalanced because of the sloped 10 degrees floor. This is also a dead end and is cut off from the outside world. This causes a type of illusion or dream in Which you get a glimps of freedom but it is a lie, the only way Out is the enter back into the dark museum and continue.The axis of the holocaust ends at a black door and behind this sits “the tower of the holocaust”Greeted by blank walls the mononlithic space is only illuminated by a silt of light providing the only relationship the tower has to the outside world.
The unheated void situated separate from the original structure but only accessible though the axis underground.The other axis are exhibition spaces, with cabinets designed by the architect which hold art, photos, souveniers and childrens drawings similar to what any regular family would own in their home however no longer holding any meaning to anyone. Covered in non anxidise zinc the wrapper of the building hides the modern construction beneath as well as the core axis which are buried beneath the marker… This shell will change over the years and become more grey, the slashes become more readable.
Slashes represent the scars and pain the Jews endured and are organised by Leibskind drawing on a map of Berlin to link both real and imaginary symbolic figures of German Judaism. He there projected the non architectural idea on the volumes of the building design. However this did cause some problems.
.. Being a museum the gallery space was found difficult to hang art on the walls because of the strategic arrangement. Therefore was left empty in 1999. within in the space of 2 years 350,000 people had visited the museum and felt it was better left this way as it the architecture speaks for itself.However this was not left like it for long soon after many chnages were made by interior decorators that created walls, collumns and placed cabinates for some 4000 objects. The windows were blocked up and the space completely changed to suite the needs of the exhibiton. 6 Concrete towers placed throughout that cut through each of the levels of the museum all being different shapes.
The only light comes from skylights and this is the final encarnantion in german judaism… absesnce.
There is no indication of the towers that exist on the interior from the outside perspective, only the skylights become aparent from above, making dotted lines on the roof cutting through the zigzag.In conclusion Liebskinds approach to the way in which his understanding and knowlege drove his passion to execute the journey through the museum in a hypothetical but relastic way in which a persons senses take over and react to the distorted views and unbalanced nature of the interior. The museum is trying to reinterperitate a Jewish persons experience and emotional reaction to the ordeal they endured during the holocaust. The architect percieves this through the use of materiality, compression and expansion of space creating a sense of exhile and imprisonment, also through the minimal use of natural light which harshly pierces its way through the dark cold structure generating desperation.
Overall all these elements come togther to stimulate a sense of absence in mind but a rememberance of those lost in the horrific events.