Architect Daniel Libeskind won worldwide acclaim for his stark, unsettling Jewish Museum in the heart of Berlin. Now the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco has moved into a new Libeskind-designed building. But as a critic for the New York Times observes, the Bay Area institution shies away from the particularities of the Jewish experience.
Libeskind says his design was inspired by various Jewish symbols, and windows in the lobby spell a Hebrew word invoking paradise. But the architect is "so distracted by secret signs and allegories that he overlooked the fundamental meanings his building was supposed to have," writes Edward Rothstein. It's a criticism he also applies to the museum itself, which celebrates Judaism, but doesn't collect objects or focus on the Holocaust, which Rothstein says leave it "without a grounding in knowledge, without history, detail, object, and belief."