Atmospheres and architectures
Management students learn about the experience of a place at the Jewish Museum in Berlin
Providing experiences is what creative industries do. Not only films, music events and performances provide experiences that address all the senses, but art institutions do this as well. Museums place increasing emphasis not only on the presentation and preservation of objects, but make efforts to provide live experiences for their visitors. Professor Biehl has published on architectures in marketing journals and the International Handbook of Museum Media, and takes the students to experience this on excursions.
A prominent example that provides an experience and embodied understanding of history is the Jewish Museum in Berlin with its postmodern part by the famous architect Daniel Libeskind. Every semester a new group of creative industries management students visits the museum for a tour on the architecture – in a portfolio of museum visits such as Gemäldegalerie or Helmut Newton Foundation’s Museum for Photography.
The architecture of the Jewish Museum Berlin can be seen as physical provocation for the visitor, offering stairs with varying numbers of steps, floors that are tilted horizontally and torn vertically, as well as hallways in which the ceilings narrow down. The movement of visitors becomes an endeavour of ‘balancing’ their personal understanding of German-Jewish history, of ‘finding a position’ within this historical context literally on the bodily level in the space and in their minds as well. The movement relates to and incorporates the historical context and the history of Jews and other groups that were murdered by the Nazis in Germany. Moving through the ‘garden of exile’ for example, visitors struggle with the tilted floor that stands in an angle to the outer space, corporeally suggesting an understanding that the exile for German Jews remained difficult and always required efforts to adjust.
The museum has hollow void spaces with walls of bare concrete, standing separate from the rest of the building. Daniel Libeskind explained that the voids of the museum refer to that which can never be exhibited when it comes to Jewish Berlin history: Humanity reduced to ashes.
This example shows that managers also need to understand challenging architectures in historic and political contexts, their opportunities and differences to their function in marketing and consumption. Museums form part of a larger complex of exhibitions that relates to department stores, shopping arcades, trade exhibitions and world’s fairs. There is a loop of creative techniques between museums and consumption areas that dates back very long. In both fields, architectures and spaces are carefully styled and can provide many different experiences.