The ANOHA – Children’s world of the Jewish Museum is an extension to the Daniel Libeskind-built Jewish Museum. It was envisioned as a space for “exploration, curiosity, and play” for kids by architecture firm Olson Kundig. The museum aims to give the museum’s youngest visitors a sense of hope and possibility, inspired by the pioneering vision of Noah’s Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, which emphasizes the importance of diversity, collaboration, and second chances.
“For me, the act of design is deeply mysterious. It’s so enigmatic–finding that path to a solution that no one, including you, could have imagined.”
— Alan Maskin, Design Principal, Olson Kundig
Architects: Olson Kundig
Design Principal: Alan Maskin
Project Architect: Martina Bendel
Project Manager: Stephen Yamada-Heidner
Area: 32300 ft²
ANOHA was constructed in a brutalist former flower market, directly across from the present museum building. The 1960s concrete market hall was mostly left alone, with a contrasting timber structure put within the concrete frame.
About the Firm
Olson Kundig is a global design firm whose work aims to broaden the scope of built and natural environments. The firm was founded in 1966 by architect Jim Olson, whose work at the time focused on explorations of the relationship between dwellings and the landscapes in which they exist. Olson started the practice with the belief that buildings may act as a gateway between nature, culture, history, and people, and that an inspirational environment can enhance people’s lives. Over the course of its five decades, the firm has grown and diversified its skills well beyond the residences for which it is still best known throughout.
Design Approach and Inspiration
At the children’s museum, the Torah’s legend of Noah’s ark takes center stage. The ark, according to tradition, was a gigantic boat that Noah used to rescue his family and all animal species from the flood. The motive was to educate the young guests to think about the respectful coexistence of people, animals, and nature, and to embolden them to take action toward a diverse and better society, by using stories from various religions about creation, floods, and new beginnings.
“Our design approach was to create a modern retelling of the ancient story of Noah’s Ark – an experience that provides a sense of hope and possibility to the people who will visit it.”
— Alan Maskin, Design Principal, Olson Kundig
The circular wooden ark at the center of ANOHA stands over 23 feet (7 meters) tall with a 92-foot (28-meter) base diameter. The warm, curving ark provides a soothing juxtaposition to the original hall’s rectilinear brutalist architecture, while the structural ribs reflect the concrete ribbing that frames the skylights overhead.
Before entering the ark, visitors may experience the sense of being underwater in an immersive room designed by artist Wolfram Spyra, which has a series of educational exhibits based on the biblical flood tale. This leads to the ark itself, where ramps, steps, interactive displays, and play spaces have been used to create a variety of spatial scenarios ranging from biological life cycles to flood-resistant housing architecture.
ANOHA is home to 150 sculptural creatures created entirely from discarded materials by a group of 18 Berlin artists. These sculptures along with the ark are intended to be utilized as interactive play experiences for design/build activity. The ark is home to a variety of animals, both huge and small, well-known and unfamiliar.
The children are encouraged to accompany the animal passengers, to look after a zebra, a cow, or a friend, and to contribute to their well-being. Animals that are less well-known, such as the naked mole-rat, have a place in the world, symbolizing respect, openness, and tolerance for what may appear to be strange at first. The extinct mammoth, as well as endangered animals like polar bears, serve as reminders of environmental issues, their effects, and our options for action.
The sculptures can be explored in multiple ways, including monkey bars, hammocks, and cuddle caves. Some of the creatures can make noises, while others use the concept of treasure hunt.
The tactile characteristic of these sculptural artifacts, as well as the sense of amusement that children experience when they identify the familiar materials used to create them, serve to emphasize the necessity of respecting, preserving, and conserving world resources. Children learn how to solve issues alone and in groups through interactive displays set along an intuitive visitor trail, while explorative rooms based after varied ecosystems allow children to explore the different viewpoints of the various animals.
As part of the user experience, sustainable techniques are included in architectural design. Due to the existing hall’s environmental buffer, extensive mechanical systems are removed, resulting in substantially lower energy loads. The inner and exterior walls of the doughnut form include clerestory windows that permit light in while framing views of the concrete structure outside. The ark’s ceiling fans and movable windows allow for natural ventilation and air exchange.
The curving concrete roof shapes of the hall provide light into the inside. It was feasible to maintain the original construction’s embodied energy while reducing embodied carbon by 95% compared to a new structure by reusing the existing flower market hall.
Apart from the space being designed as vibrant, interactive, and child friendly; the curator of the museum also visioned this space as a platform dedicated to educating the children about the current climate crisis. The Noah’s Ark tale from the Torah – as well as the hundreds of flood stories that exist in civilizations throughout the world – provides an accessible, familiar allegory to help youngsters deal with important current concerns, according to the architect. Rising tides as a result of climate change are a very real, current flood story, as depicted here among hundreds of historical flood tales.
ANOHA—The Children’s World of the Jewish Museum Berlin / Olson Kundig [online] Available at ANOHA—The Children’s World of the Jewish Museum Berlin / Olson Kundig | ArchDaily
Olson Kundig completes Noah’s ark informed children’s museum in Berlin [online]. (Last updated 19 July 2021). Available at: Olson Kundig completes Noah’s ark-informed children’s museum in Berlin (dezeen.com)
ANOHA—The Children’s World of the Jewish Museum Berlin [online] Available at : ANOHA | Jewish Museum Berlin (jmberlin.de)
Olson Kundig’s ANOHA Children’s Museum Opens at Jewish Museum Berlin. [online]. (Last updated 1 July 2021). Available at: ANOHA by Olson Kundig Opens in Berlin | 2021-06-29 | Architectural Record