Critics Declare War on Daniel Libeskind's Violent Addition to Dresden's Military Museum

Daniel Libeskind's six-year, $85 million redesign of Dresden's Museum of Military History made its debut this weekend, marking the opening of the first new war museum in Germany since its reunification.

The main attraction of Libeskind's redesign is the 99-foot-tall, 14,700-ton shard of glass and steel erupting from the museum's neoclassical façade. Like the city surrounding it, the museum is an intersection of prewar and postwar, a contemporary intervention slicing through the 135-year-old building, echoing the same glimmering metal veneer and sharp, angular outline of Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin.The main building, originally built in 1873 as a military arsenal, is one of the few survivors of the February 1945 firebombing by the Allied forces, which destroyed 80 percent ofthe city.


"I wanted to create a bold interruption, a fundamental dislocation, to penetrate the historic arsenal and create a new experience," Libeskind said in a statement. "The architecture will engage the public in the deepest issue of how organized violence and military history and the fate of the city are intertwined."

The museum has caused a minor uproar among critics for a number of reasons; while some take offense at the radically modern interruption of the historic building, others oppose the museum's strong antiwar sentiments and minor representation of the Holocaust.

The museum features 10,500 artifacts dating as far back as the 1300s, showcasing the crude weapons of the era. It continues through World War II with V2 rockets, and ends at the present, with tanks used by Germany's Federal Defense Force, or Bundeswehr, today in Afghanistan. The exhibits within are split according to the architecture: the original building features historic, chronological exhibits, while the glass intervention is thematic, representing topics including "War and Suffering" and "Fashion and the Military." Many exhibits border on the macabre: a skull of a soldier who shot himself is on view attached to his suicide note; an artinstallation simulates the imprints caused by atomic attacks by freezing the shadows of its passersby on its walls; and disturbing children's cartoons illustrate Nazi propaganda.

One uplifting highlight of the museum is the view of the city from the viewing platform within the glass and steel wedge. Dresden lies below, and like the museum, is a melange of its prewar heritage and postwar progress. 

To see the interior of the Museum of Military History and its exhibits, click the photo gallery to the left.