Gedenkstätte Lindenstrasse

Gedenkstätte Lindenstrasse in Berlin, Germany by Zvi Hecker, 1996

It would seem that designing a monument would be the ideal commission for an architect, finally able to ignore the practicalities of function that hinder the artist within. But what is, and are the functions of, a monument? and how does one design a monument? Two contrary definitions exist for a monument: 1. something set up to keep alive a person's or event's memory; 2. a work of of enduring value or significance. The former is designed as a monument, the latter becomes a monument. Gedenkstätte Lindenstrasse in Berlin, Germany by Zvi Hecker, a monument to a synagogue destroyed on the site, straddles the two definitions (unfortunately the situation pertaining to the synagogue's destruction is unknown by this writer, so this essay takes a general approach to its design and meaning).

The drawing at top illustrates the two major aspects of the monument: past and present. The lightly-drawn lines show the plan of the synagogue before its destruction, the dark lines coinciding with the light lines show what survived after its destruction, mainly the banks and some walls. Instead of rebuilding the synagogue to its previous state, Hecker added what was before the synagogue: nothing. The monument then becomes an account of its destruction, overlaid with the present: the overgrowth of trees and a winding fire lane that cuts through the banks.

So Hecker has created a monument that is both something set up to keep alive an event's memory and a work of of enduring value or significance, in this case more powerful in its destroyed state than before. Which returns us to our first question, what is a monument and what, if any, is its function? Clearly this monument exists so people remember. Remember a place, a time, an event. But the intersection of present-day use and growth enriches this simple function. It attempts to help us see the past in relation to the present and, hopefully, the present in relation to the future. In this sense the monument does not solely speak about itself and a specific event but about a way of thinking and living.