Peter Eisenman Says Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial Wouldn’t Be Approved in Today’s Political Climate

The architect has observed a rise in xenophobia.

Architect Peter Eisenman in front of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images.

The American architect Peter Eisenman, designer of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, believes that in today’s political environment, it wouldn’t have been approved.

Monopol cited an interview between the architect and the German daily newspaper Die Zeit, in which Eisenman observed that the rise of nationalism and the conservative right has led to a strong increase in xenophobia and antisemitism in Germany and the United States.

“The social climate has evolved; much of which has been previously deemed acceptable is now being questioned,” he said.

Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the German capital was started in 2003 and inaugurated two years later. The €25 million ($29.25 million) project encompasses a grid of 2,711 concrete slabs in varying heights covering a 4.7 acre sloping site near Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. The open format allows people to walk between the slabs, and through the installation.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The architect won a design competition for the memorial in 1997, beating out competitors such as Richard Serra. However the memorial has received a mixed reception since its completion, with some locals denouncing its open-plan structure.

According to the Local, politically motivated crimes in Germany rose by 19 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year. The figure includes over 1,000 attacks on refugee homes, a dramatic increase compared to the 199 incidents recorded in 2014.

Citing hate crime monitoring groups, the Local reported that there was also an increase in anti-Semitic crimes in Berlin last year.


In his interview with Die Zeit, Eisenman also questioned the honesty of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, recalling an incident in the 1980s. “In the ’80s when I had an office with Jacques Robertson, he [Trump] came in and said ‘hey I want you to design a couple of towers here in Manhattan.’ We then did this and should have gotten $100,000 for the plans. But he said ‘I don’t want that and I’m not going to pay you either.’”

Eisenman went on to compare the real-estate developer’s buildings to communist-era architecture. “The blocks remind me of the architecture of the Soviets. After 1933 during the trials in Moscow, Stalin built similar things, very simplistic, very dumb.”

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