Contract - Without Prejudice: TEK Architects designed the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough Community College

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Without Prejudice: TEK Architects designed the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough Community College

21 June, 2010

-By Jennifer Thiele Busch



November 9, 1938, the night that became known in history as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is widely considered by historians to represent the official beginning of the Holocaust. In a coordinated attack by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, and the SS on Jewish people in Germany and Austria, 91 Jews were murdered, more than 25,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps, 267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.

Seven decades later, the remembrance of that night, the ensuing horrors of the Holocaust, the eventual triumph over the Nazis, and the important historical lessons left in its wake have been expressed in the architecture of the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA) in Queens, home to one of the largest U.S. populations of Holocaust survivors.

The KHRCA had existed for 20 years in cramped and uninspiring quarters in the basement of the library at Queensborough Community College (QCC), part of the City University of New York, when college president Dr. Eduardo Martí and KHRCA executive director Arthur Flug determined that it was time to raise the Center’s profile on the campus. Following a public design competition, they commissioned Manhattan-based TEK Architects to design its new home. “The Center was a jewel in the rough,” says Martí. “By putting it in the forefront of the college campus, we created a beacon for the community. It gave form to the function.” The new, 8,000-sq.-ft. Center allows the Holocaust program to experiment with space, according to Flug. “At the Kupferberg Holocaust Center we look at the Holocaust as more than an historical event,” he says. “We consider it the greatest hate crime ever committed. The building gives us access to an unlimited number of options to study the Holocaust.”

Despite the fact that a high concentration of Holocaust survivors live in the surrounding neighborhoods, and their lives are the subject of student-produced permanent exhibits within, the Center’s unique mission—it is the only facility of its kind on a college campus in the State of New York—was equally inspired by the blended student population at QCC. “We have about 15,000 students. One-quarter of them are white, one-quarter of them are black, one-quarter of them are Hispanic, and one-quarter of them are Asian,” explains Martí. “A lot of them have been subject to prejudice, and a lot bring prejudices with them. The Center uses the lessons of the Holocaust to illustrate the dangers of unbridled prejudice.” The final exhibits, for example, focus on such historical events as the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, and other cataclysmic human exterminations that some members of the student body of 141 nationalities may be more familiar with, thus spreading the significance of the Holocaust to multiple cultures.

Given the weight of the subject matter, the architecture of the KHRCA easily could have taken on a somber tone, but this elegant glass box serving as a focal point at the campus entry by day and a beacon for the community at night is anything but. “How do you design something that is not a funerary monument?” says TEK principal Charles Thanhauser of his challenge. “We wanted to convey a serious tone but not a funerary tone.”

It was predetermined by the client that the building would be a glass box, and Thanhauser says that given that parameter, his thoughts kept returning to the Kristallnacht. So ultimately, he developed a design that references this dark night in history. The contrast of angled glass panels with regular glass panels is meant to convey the image of shattered glass, while the sheltering black wall and roof reaching up and across the structure insinuates the growing doom. The entry procession, up a long staircase and into a narrow slot between the glass box and the outside wall, alludes to the trains that carried Jews to the concentration camps—and for six million, to their deaths.

Inside, the journey continues. Visitors are greeted by a light-filled glass hall with permanent exhibits produced by QCC students that tell the story of the Holocaust from the eyes of local survivors through video, still images, and text. A narrow passage leads from the entry hall into a temporary exhibit gallery deprived of natural light. As visitors proceed through this gallery, articulating walls expand and contract the width of the space, and the color gradually shifts from light to dark gray in a symbolic reference to the Jews’ journey into darkness. A library and archive, lecture hall, classrooms, offices, and an outdoor patio round out the program.

At night, the glowing glass box lit entirely from within casts what Thanhauser calls “a relentless light on the Holocaust.” (On a practical note, Martí points out that QCC also had to make sure that it did not cast a relentless light on the neighbors.) Indeed, a sign at the entrance to the temporary exhibit hall reads, “And when the last survivor is gone, who will tell of the Holocaust?” According to Martí, the Kupferberg Resource Center was created and endowed to live in perpetuity and is being well-used to educate students, faculty, and the community around the purpose for which it was built—to keep memories of the Holocaust alive, and make sure the college community and the surrounding community never forget its lessons.

“It is a building of allegories that casts a shining light on a dark era in the history of the world,” he notes. “From the cracked glass to the dark passage to the temporary exhibits, TEK did a masterful job in creating a space that speaks to our mission. It is a building of hope.”

who
Owner: DASNY/CUNY. Architect: TEK Architects PC, New York, NY; Charles Thanhauser, principal in charge; Andrew Ojamaa, project director; Carolina Meller, Kotting Luo. Contractor: Summit Construction. MEP Engineering: DLB Consulting Engineers MEP. Structural Engineering: Dunne and Markis PE. Landscape: Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects. Graphics: KPC Experience. Photographer: Brian Rose.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Laminate: Formica. Dry wall: USG. Flooring: Key Resin Company. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface. Ceiling: Armstrong. Lighting: Linear, Altman, Amerlux, Altman Lighting, Louis Poulson, Cooper Lighting Halo, Kurt Versen, Light Control, Lightolier, Legion, Erco, Se’Lux, Elliptipar. Doors: custom glass. Glass: custom glass by KPA Group. Window treatments: MechoShade. Workstations; conference, cafeteria, dining, training, other tables; files, shelving: by owner. Architectural woodworking: DMS Woodworking. Signage: Mulberry Signs. Plumbing fixtures: American Standard.

where
Location: Bayside, Queens, NY. Total floor area: 10,500 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1 level (plus lower level machine room). Average floor size: 8,500 sq. ft. Cost/sq. ft.: $500.




Without Prejudice: TEK Architects designed the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough Community College

21 June, 2010


Brian Rose

November 9, 1938, the night that became known in history as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is widely considered by historians to represent the official beginning of the Holocaust. In a coordinated attack by the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, and the SS on Jewish people in Germany and Austria, 91 Jews were murdered, more than 25,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps, 267 synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of homes and businesses were ransacked.

Seven decades later, the remembrance of that night, the ensuing horrors of the Holocaust, the eventual triumph over the Nazis, and the important historical lessons left in its wake have been expressed in the architecture of the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives (KHRCA) in Queens, home to one of the largest U.S. populations of Holocaust survivors.

The KHRCA had existed for 20 years in cramped and uninspiring quarters in the basement of the library at Queensborough Community College (QCC), part of the City University of New York, when college president Dr. Eduardo Martí and KHRCA executive director Arthur Flug determined that it was time to raise the Center’s profile on the campus. Following a public design competition, they commissioned Manhattan-based TEK Architects to design its new home. “The Center was a jewel in the rough,” says Martí. “By putting it in the forefront of the college campus, we created a beacon for the community. It gave form to the function.” The new, 8,000-sq.-ft. Center allows the Holocaust program to experiment with space, according to Flug. “At the Kupferberg Holocaust Center we look at the Holocaust as more than an historical event,” he says. “We consider it the greatest hate crime ever committed. The building gives us access to an unlimited number of options to study the Holocaust.”

Despite the fact that a high concentration of Holocaust survivors live in the surrounding neighborhoods, and their lives are the subject of student-produced permanent exhibits within, the Center’s unique mission—it is the only facility of its kind on a college campus in the State of New York—was equally inspired by the blended student population at QCC. “We have about 15,000 students. One-quarter of them are white, one-quarter of them are black, one-quarter of them are Hispanic, and one-quarter of them are Asian,” explains Martí. “A lot of them have been subject to prejudice, and a lot bring prejudices with them. The Center uses the lessons of the Holocaust to illustrate the dangers of unbridled prejudice.” The final exhibits, for example, focus on such historical events as the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, and other cataclysmic human exterminations that some members of the student body of 141 nationalities may be more familiar with, thus spreading the significance of the Holocaust to multiple cultures.

Given the weight of the subject matter, the architecture of the KHRCA easily could have taken on a somber tone, but this elegant glass box serving as a focal point at the campus entry by day and a beacon for the community at night is anything but. “How do you design something that is not a funerary monument?” says TEK principal Charles Thanhauser of his challenge. “We wanted to convey a serious tone but not a funerary tone.”

It was predetermined by the client that the building would be a glass box, and Thanhauser says that given that parameter, his thoughts kept returning to the Kristallnacht. So ultimately, he developed a design that references this dark night in history. The contrast of angled glass panels with regular glass panels is meant to convey the image of shattered glass, while the sheltering black wall and roof reaching up and across the structure insinuates the growing doom. The entry procession, up a long staircase and into a narrow slot between the glass box and the outside wall, alludes to the trains that carried Jews to the concentration camps—and for six million, to their deaths.

Inside, the journey continues. Visitors are greeted by a light-filled glass hall with permanent exhibits produced by QCC students that tell the story of the Holocaust from the eyes of local survivors through video, still images, and text. A narrow passage leads from the entry hall into a temporary exhibit gallery deprived of natural light. As visitors proceed through this gallery, articulating walls expand and contract the width of the space, and the color gradually shifts from light to dark gray in a symbolic reference to the Jews’ journey into darkness. A library and archive, lecture hall, classrooms, offices, and an outdoor patio round out the program.

At night, the glowing glass box lit entirely from within casts what Thanhauser calls “a relentless light on the Holocaust.” (On a practical note, Martí points out that QCC also had to make sure that it did not cast a relentless light on the neighbors.) Indeed, a sign at the entrance to the temporary exhibit hall reads, “And when the last survivor is gone, who will tell of the Holocaust?” According to Martí, the Kupferberg Resource Center was created and endowed to live in perpetuity and is being well-used to educate students, faculty, and the community around the purpose for which it was built—to keep memories of the Holocaust alive, and make sure the college community and the surrounding community never forget its lessons.

“It is a building of allegories that casts a shining light on a dark era in the history of the world,” he notes. “From the cracked glass to the dark passage to the temporary exhibits, TEK did a masterful job in creating a space that speaks to our mission. It is a building of hope.”

who
Owner: DASNY/CUNY. Architect: TEK Architects PC, New York, NY; Charles Thanhauser, principal in charge; Andrew Ojamaa, project director; Carolina Meller, Kotting Luo. Contractor: Summit Construction. MEP Engineering: DLB Consulting Engineers MEP. Structural Engineering: Dunne and Markis PE. Landscape: Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects. Graphics: KPC Experience. Photographer: Brian Rose.

what
Paint: Benjamin Moore. Laminate: Formica. Dry wall: USG. Flooring: Key Resin Company. Carpet/carpet tile: Interface. Ceiling: Armstrong. Lighting: Linear, Altman, Amerlux, Altman Lighting, Louis Poulson, Cooper Lighting Halo, Kurt Versen, Light Control, Lightolier, Legion, Erco, Se’Lux, Elliptipar. Doors: custom glass. Glass: custom glass by KPA Group. Window treatments: MechoShade. Workstations; conference, cafeteria, dining, training, other tables; files, shelving: by owner. Architectural woodworking: DMS Woodworking. Signage: Mulberry Signs. Plumbing fixtures: American Standard.

where
Location: Bayside, Queens, NY. Total floor area: 10,500 sq. ft. No. of floors: 1 level (plus lower level machine room). Average floor size: 8,500 sq. ft. Cost/sq. ft.: $500.

 


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