Several MCF team members attended Daniel Libeskind's lecture at CMU on his experiences designing urban, cultural and commercial projects. Employees were excited to hear about the impressive changes to the Tree of Life Synagogue given MCF's involvement in 1946 for the construction of the original synagogue at Wilkins and Shady Avenue (Charles & Edward Stotz and Alexander Sharove, Architects).
The topic of the evening was the role architecture can play in representing historical trauma. One must remember that people continue to live, work, and play in the same buildings where a traumatic event occurs. The shooting at Tree of Life in Squirrel Hill was an outrage and a disruption of a community that reached far beyond the congregation and neighborhood. A building that serves as a place of worship, where community gathers to celebrate, mourn, worship, and pray became a crime scene. Libeskind argued that the memories of a building, an event, a community need to be expressed and communicated. Libeskind’s work has not shied away from reminding people that horror happens. That life should be uncomfortable; there is darkness, there is cold, there is isolation. We need to embrace our history, learn from the atrocities performed by individuals, groups, and governments, and confront our discomfort. By surrounding ourselves in the darkness, we are reminded by light. The drawings shown for the Tree of Life Memorial express a beam of light cutting through the building. Libeskind sought to bring light into the darkness of the traumatized community.
The community will be able to return to their space and heal together in the light. The role of the building is maintained and expanded as new visitors will join in remembering the events of October 27, 2018. The community was not destroyed. They will be able to continue on and grow within their building.
To quote from Libeskind, “Each building is an instrument, kind of like a Stradivarius, it's beautiful to look at, but it is important to use it.” By acknowledging the trauma and exploring the reality of history, Libeskind respects the lives that are served by our buildings. He strives to provide moments that allow for people to heal while reflecting on past horror, which will ultimately lead communities to move forward and create the changes necessary to prevent future tragedy.
Photographed above: Sneha Varadarajan, Thomas Pierce, Emily Jaquay, Alaina Bernstein, Anastasia Johnson, Kelsey Donegan of MCF Architecture.
Lecture notes recorded by Emily Jaquay, Architectural Designer