The Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation is being built in the middle of Berlin – a visible symbol for the memory and commemoration of displacement, expulsion, and forced migration in both the past and present. On June 21, 2021, the foundation of the same name will open this place of historical education and lively debates. A library with a testimony archive is being built on the first floor. In the spirit of Third Places, the library encourages people to stay and converse.
The history of Europe in the 20th century has been shaped by national conflicts, wars, and dictatorships. Furthermore, many people were forced to leave their villages and towns. Therefore, in 2008 the German Bundestag decided to create a visible symbol for the remembrance and commemoration of displacement, expulsion and forced migration. The new Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation (German: Dokumentationszentrum Flucht, Vertreibung, Versöhnung) was meant not only to provide space for remembrance and commemoration of the past but also to stimulate discourse about current events. After renovation and redesign by the Austrian architect studio Marte.Marte, the former Deutschlandhaus at Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin was handed over to the foundation in 2020. In addition to exhibition and event rooms, there is also a specialized academic library with a testimony archive as an important pillar – by the Centre‘s opening in the summer of 2021, a Third Place will have been created here.
We wanted to build up this new knowledge location as an inviting place for a wide variety of target groups.
“We wanted to build up this new knowledge location as an inviting, open place for a wide variety of target groups,” recalls Dr. Nils Köhler, who heads the Documentation and Research Department of the foundation. “It is important to us that our visitors take a moment of pause in the library after touring the exhibitions to browse through books and personal reports, and process their experience.”
Invitation to the conversation
With this goal in mind, the three-day workshop for which the foundation’s team and aatvos architects met in Berlin in March 2020 began. “The workshop was a key experience for us,” remembers Barbara Kurowska, who, as the person responsible for the testimony archive, is involved in the design of the reading room. “With the support of the aatvos team, we have worked out in detail how our concerns, namely the joint processing of history and respect for the perspectives of others, can be reflected in the design of the place.” An important result of the workshop was the core promise of the library and testimony archive: As a central Third Place, it will contextualize knowledge and invite you to engage in a conversation about it.
With the support of the aatvos team, we have worked out in detail how our concerns can be reflected in the design.
Seating cocoons as intimate media stations
What does it mean – on a personal level and for society at large – to lose one’s home? The guests can delve deeper into this question in the newly designed rooms of the library and testimony archive of the Documentation Centre. Before entering the reading room, visitors pass through a hallway. This area, which is visible from the main exhibition space, contains individual seating cocoons, inviting visitors further into the library – manifesting the concept of a Third Place already from afar. In an intimate and cozy atmosphere, visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the personal memories of those affected by forced migration and to envision what it means to flee into the unknown. In addition to comfortable seating, each cocoon has a media station, which provides auditory and visual impressions, and a map at eye level. This combination brings visitors closer to life stories that have been shaped by displacement and expulsion. The steel frames of the cocoons display geographical coordinates of places that were the scene of forced migration at different times. These have been cut out in the steel structure using a laser – the result of a collaboration between Studio Neon and aatvos.
There will be a meeting and information point with a large communal table in the center of the library. This central area is flanked by individual and group workstations with a small coffee bar. Attractive workplaces will also be set up along the window facade. A total of 40 people can find a place to read, research, and reflect. Leather was incorporated into the design of the cocoons and much of the seating furniture, as the natural material reminds us that there are moments in history that leave visible traces.
We paid great attention to creating opportunities for the audience to process and think through what they saw, heard, and experienced.
“When designing the interior, we paid great attention to creating opportunities for the audience to process and think through what they saw, heard, and experienced in the museum,” summarizes Creative Director Aat Vos. “The new library offers various opportunities to sit down, relax, and reflect on the meaning of memories.”
The design of the library with testimony archive at the Documentation Centre Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation is a vision that aatvos developed together with the client within a workshop.
Concept, workshop, design, sketches: aatvos
Project management: tp management GmbH
Interior builder: Team Stonepark
Commission, tender, construction management: Raumkonzepte + Interior Design I Zauleck
Graphic design of coordinates and map: Studio Neon