Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dio-Day in Munich

Today started off depressing, but progressively got better as the day went on. We began with a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This concentration camp is well known beyond the many others because it was one the first one completed and one of the only ones still standing. We had an extensive tour of 2 hours and 30 minutes where we visited the barracks, gas chambers, prison, and the large gathering grounds. We began our tour learning about the process of the prisoner’s arrival. Initially they were questioned with the reasoning behind their imprison; then stripped of their close, name, and identity, given a number, shaved their entire body, photographed in a chair that shockingly stuck their back with a needle and then sent to the barracks according to their new ‘label’ (Jewish, opposing political party, homosexual and disabled, criminals, etc). The two barracks that were still standing were reconstructions and the rest were only the foundations. There were a total of 30 barracks, where each room was suppose to house 50 prisoner but they later held 400 prisoners as the number of prisoners increased. The beds were designed for 2 people to share and eventually were connected to make a large massive bed where the prisoners slept on top of each other, increasing the spread of diseases. They were only aloud to shower once every two weeks. Because their living conditions were so unhealthy in these barracks; many people died. Kupfer Koperwitz, the author of “The Mighty and the Helpless” described them as… “The green barrack buildings could be distinguished through the barbed wire. Even at a distance you could see that all was meticulously clean; the merest fragment of litter was absent. An air of foreboding permeated the place - frightful, cold as death. Never before have I experienced an atmosphere so uncompromisingly dangerous or so unfriendishly hostile.” The Nazis authorities had strict cleaning orders where the prisoners were punished for a single coffee stain on the floor or if the hay they slept on in their beds was not made up at the same level. After visiting the barracks we headed to the chambers where the prisoners were killed. These chambers were separately located across a canal away from the barracks to keep hidden from the prisoners. It was difficult to experience where all of the horrific torturing and killing actually took place. I’ve seen the terrifying images the masses of pilled corps outside of the gas chambers, but never have I seen an image and turned to my right to see where they once laid. It was heart breaking to hear and see how these people were tortured. We walked through each phase of the killing process. It began with the disinfecting tanks leading into the waiting room, and then follows the gas chamber, dead body storage room, cremation furnaces, and then additional dead body storage rooms. The Nazis lead the prisoners into believing they were going into a large shower room so they would go into the chamber willingly. There were even fake shower heads in the gas chamber, which still had a remaining toxic smell. There was even a small window opening in the wall for the Nazis to watch the prisoners fall to their death within 15 to 20 minutes. They were relentlessly cruel. Here is a video I recorded as I walked through these chambers.
We then headed to the addition prisons of the camp where ‘special’ prisoners were kept. The ones who threatened or disobeyed the Nazi authorities were sent here to be tortured. We learned of many other horrific stories of what the Nazis did to these prisoners, but I think I have shared enough of this devastating period. The good news is it was U.S. troops who were responsible for liberating the prisoners of Dechau Concentration Camp. Our next stop was the BMW Welt designed by Coop Him(l)beau. The opened interior space was pretty exotic where the gestures of the roof, rhythm, form, and circulation captivated a zooming effect. The architect designed the building to appear in frozen motion which resembles the concept of a car. It really made you move throughout the space, drawing an interest and interaction for the user. One of the really neat aspects about this museum is the extensive process a customer goes through to recieve their new BMW. The new BMW arrives to the museum, is washed, polished, and stored in a controlled (low oxygen) environment to prevent fires. When the customer comes to recieve the car, it is carried to an exclusive show room where they take it for their first drive down the museum's spiral exit ramp. It would be an experience that would make you feel 'pretty cool'. I also enjoyed seeing the twisted core piece seperate from the main building where they featured their latest car model. After our tour we had extra time to see the Munich Olympic Staduim from 1972 located nearby. I definetely enjoyed the seeing the stadium more than the BMW Museum because of the rigourous detail involved with design. I have always had a fascination with large glass canopy structures and this is now one of my particular favorites. The design was revolutionary of it's time and is still appreciated. The design is timeless. I enjoyed observing the details, connections, and essence of the space. The design offered an interactive experience for the public through it's ground connections. People are able to crawl and sit on the main structural foundations. The qualities this place offered is an architecture I am interesting in practicing. Later in the evening, a few of us attended a Bach concert at Herz-Jesu Kirche. Although the concert was beautiful, I really enjoyed seeing this well known modern church designed by ASW architects. The design of this church was a beautiful, simple, and elegant place of worship. It consisted of a basic glass cube that enclosed an interior wooden cube. The exterior glass transformed from transparent to translucent to signify a transition from the public entrance and private place of worship. The internal wooden cube served as both an enclosure and acoustical barrier. The simplicity and elegance of the interior allowed for a pleasant worship environment with no distractions. I enjoyed the lyrical experience of hearing Bach's classical compositions in this beautiful church.

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