On June 27th 2021, the Jewish Museum Berlin opened ANOHA Children’s World designed by Olson Kundig a Seattle based architecture practice. Alan Maskin, the Design Principal, crafted ANOHA to invite preschool and elementary school children to explore. The museum is inspired by the pioneering vision of Noah's Ark at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, which underscores the importance of diversity, community, and second chances. ANOHA provides a place for play and learning while seeking to foster a sense of hope and possibility. Visitors are encouraged to interact with one another and to create an empathetic future.
The 2700 square meter (29.062 square feet) ANOHA was constructed inside a former wholesale flower market across the street from the main museum building. ANOHA takes the Torah story of Noah’s Ark as the point of departure for a journey into the future. In the center of Children’s World is an enormous wooden Ark and 150 different animal sculptures. The Ark is 7 meters (23 feet) tall and 28 meters (92 feet) in diameter! Children are invited to come on board and imagine the story of Noah’s Ark coming back to life.
The Jewish concept of tikkun olam calls on each of us to make the world a slightly better place. The museum strives to examine how we can achieve a respectful coexistence between humans, animals, and nature. The Jewish Museum Berlin draws an unusually young crowd for a cultural history museum — 1 in 5 visitors is under the age of 20. The core and temporary exhibitions, however, primarily serve adults and teenagers.
The young visitors and their families can explore and experience the exhibition at their own pace. Periodically, educationally trained staff are stationed throughout to tell the story of Noah’s Ark. They ask and answer questions about big global themes, nature, and environmental protection, talk to the visitors about peaceful coexistence, and encourage them to take an active part themselves.
Children can crawl through or climb on the anaconda, sit on the elephant, or cuddle up to the sloth. Instead of glass showcases, the museum has workbenches, slides, and climbing structures. Everything is tangible and experiential to promote meaningful learning. One of the goals was to connect the past to the present day and to encourage people to imagine what life might look like in the future.
Children were involved in the new museum’s development process from the beginning. A Children’s Council, which was re-appointed each school year comprising 6 Berlin elementary school students ages 6 to 12, has met regularly at the Jewish Museum Berlin since the 2017–18 academic year. The young co-curators had the opportunity to develop and contribute their wishes and ideas. They were consulted on the name of Children’s World and approved specific elements of the exhibition.
We designed ANOHA through the lens of a child’s experience, allowing them to engage with important cultural issues in creative, age-appropriate ways. – Alan Maskin
Opening date: June 2021
Client: Jewish Museum Berlin
Project by Olson Kundig
Photos by Yves Sucksdorff, Hufton & Crow, Alan Maskin, kubix Berlin, courtesy of Olson Kundig