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Berlin, Germany, 1991-1995

The school was designed in a form of a flower, as a gift to the children of Berlin. The sunflower's celestial construction seemed most suitable for planning the school, since its seeds orbit the sun and the sun's rays illuminate all of the schoolrooms.

Berlin accepted the gift and entrusted us with the work. To begin with, calculations had to be made of the sun's orbits and the length of all the sun rays. When these were completed, construction could begin. Bricks were brought and laid one over the other. Walls rose and the building began to emerge.

In time it became evident that the school, whilst under construction, was gradually transforming into an intricate city. Streets and courtyards followed the paths of the orbits and the infinitesimal traces of the sun rays. The school´s exterior moulded the city´s interior into a mirror of the universe, a place where light and shadow intersect. Children loved it and the work continued.

The building was nearing completion when an uncertainty arose. By now the construction resembled neither a sunflower nor a city but a book whose open pages carry the load of the construction. Building a book was not our guiding principle, and experts had to be consulted as to the cause of the continually mutating images.

Following a lengthy Talmudic debate, the school was eventually found to be built correctly. It was acknowledged that the sunflower, when transplanted from the Holy Land to Berlin evolved naturally into a book. The experts declared that the transformation was unavoidable since the Book represented the only lot Jews were allowed to cultivate in the Diaspora.

The theory of natural evolution was further reinforced by an account from the Old Testament. Beth-Sefer, the Hebrew word for school, when translated literally means House of The Book. This important biblical-etymological evidence restored confidence in our work and paved the way for the completion of construction.

Oblivious to these transformations were only the school children. They had to discover themselves how the sunflower absorbs the light into its deeply cut canyons and reflects it upon the pages of an open book, and how in turn the House of the Book becomes a city of streets, courtyards and places to hide.

It seems inevitable that the rapid pace of transformation will turn full circle and come to completion. Finally, what many have suspected will be revealed-that the House of The Book is not the building of a School, but a landscape of our childhood dreams.

Jewish Community Berlin

ca. 8.000m²

March 1993- 1995

Project Manager:
Prof. Inken Baller, Architect, Berlin

Structural engineer:
Gerhard Pichler, Engineer, Berlin

Technical engineer:
GTA, Barbara Schmelz

Landscape architect:
MKW, Kamel Louafi

Carsten Pammer
Uwe Wittig
Andreas Hilbert
Peter Kever
David Evans