Field of Stelae

Picture: Field of Stelae

The final design, approved on 25 June 1999 (»Eisenman II«), envisages around 2,700 concrete slabs (stelae), arranged in a grid pattern. They are 0.95 cm deep and 2.38 m wide and vary only in height. The stelae stand on gently and unevenly sloping ground covering 19,000 square metres. The public is able to enter and walk through the field from all four sides. They experience the wave-like form differently from each different position.

The extraordinary design by Peter Eisenman, New York architect of international renown, has undergone several revisions and represents a radical confrontation with the traditional concept of a memorial.

»The enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate ... Our memorial attempts to present a new idea of memory as distinct from nostalgia ... We can only know the past today through a manifestation in the present.« (Peter Eisenman, 1998)

In the western part of the field of stelae, 41 trees (mainly pine, linden, and Kentucky coffee trees) are planted in informal groups to form a transition to the Tiergarten park. The field of stelae is paved with concrete paving stones. Special routes through the stelae are marked for disabled visitors, particularly wheelchair users.

Numbers of Stelae
2,711 stelae in total, 811 stelae ranging in height from 0,2 to 2 m, 916 stelae ranging in height from 2 to 3,5 m, 872 stelae ranging in height from 3,5 to 4,7 m. 112 ground-level stelae (0.2 m in height) on the edges of the field of stelae and the public footpaths.

Stelae Foundations
The stelae stand on so-called »cradles« which are mounted on the field of stelaes terraces of varying heights crossways to the longitudinal alignment of the stelae. On the top part of these cradles, there are concrete fixtures to which the stelae with their different inclinations are attached (four fixtures per stele). To the observer standing outside the field of stelae, the varying inclinations and heights of the stelae create a wave-like impression.

Test Stelae and Reference Stelae
The Foundation to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the architect had several series of stelae produced to test the different methods of construction, colour shades and qualities of concrete before placing the order. On the basis of the results, the architect made his decisions and tenders were invited. Subsequent to placing the order, the Foundation and the Senate came to an agreement with the Firma Geithner (Wilhelmshaven/Joachimsthal plant) on a demanding quality assurance procedure which the company developed on the basis of the architects requirements. Before multiple production was commenced, the Firma Geithner had manufactured approximately ten »reference stelae«, which had been approved by the architect and the Foundation on 14 August 2003. The quality of each individual stele was checked against these reference stelae before its final erection. The stelae were certified at the factory and only erected after receiving final approval from the architect Professor Peter Eisenman and his planning team. Sixteen stelae were produced at the factory per day and sixty each week, depending on their height. The erection of the stelae at the Memorial site was completed in December 2004.

Reinforcement and Concrete Quality of the Stelae
The stelae contain a steel reinforcement and are manufactured by pouring an extra-hard concrete mixture into specially-produced steel forms at the Joachimsthal plant of the Firma Geithner. Having sought advice from renowned concrete experts (Professor Müller, Karlsruhe; Professor Hillemeier, Berlin) already known to the company or recommended by the Senate Department of Urban Development, the Firma Geithner developed a concrete formula and a production procedure which ensured that the constructions particularly high quality requirements were fulfilled. At the factory, the surface of the stelae were also treated with the substance »Protectosil« by Degussa which provides considerable protection against weather factors and leaching and at the same time serves as graffiti protection.