New Holocaust Center's provocative architecture
elicits strong opinions.
HARRY KI RS BAUM
it opening," said Jennifer Burley, manager of the
Flagstar Bank, next door on the north. "We're excited
and I want to go see it, and what it's all about."
Danny Yu, manager of Hong Hua, the Chinese
restaurant on the south side of the center, agreed.
He's hopeful that his new neighbor will help his busi-
ness. "I think it's going to be very good for the strip."
Farmington Hills Mayor Nancy Bates said, "It is
such a deeply felt honor to have the Holocaust
Center in Farmington Hills. I'm grateful that many
munity," said Lowenberg, a survivor of Riga-
Kaiserwald Prison in Riga, Latvia.
The 51,000-square-foot, two-story structure will
house three museums and a library. The 8.5 acres
will include parking for more than 200 cars and a
dozen buses. A memorial garden, including a pond
and a field of wildflowers, is planned for the future.
Three museums representing Jewish life before
World War II, the Holocaust and those who saved
Jewish lives are represented in the exterior architec-
ture of the sprawling structure.
Red brick wrapped in cable
resembling barbed wire represents
the Museum of European Jewish
›. Heritage; six yellow-lit skylights
5 symbolize the six million killed;
E and white brick represents the
E International Institute of the
Righteous. Gray and black stripes
recalling prisoner's uniforms blan-
ket the second story, and a lit ele-
vator shaft that extends well over
the second-floor roof symbolizes a
wathed in prison stripes and wrapped in
barbed wire-like cable, the massive red-
brick building stands in stark contrast to its
Amid nondescript office buildings, small strip
malls, coffee shops, banks and restaurants, the
Holocaust Memorial Center on Orchard Lake Road
in Farmington Hills is notable for
its scale and its magnitude.
Although still under construc-
tion, the HMC's exterior architec-
ture compels those in the 21,350
vehicles that pass by it every day to
There's no mistaking what this
building is all about.
To Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig,
HMC founder and executive direc-
tor and a survivor of the
Holocaust, the structure is meant
to be realistic, rather than dramatic.
"There is nothing here that is
different than what the reality
was," he said, while touring the
most people say the
The site, on the west side of
the statement is
Orchard Lake Road north of 12
made in the wrong location and
Mile, is near 1-696, a convenience
is too graphic.
for the school, civic and religious
"Do I really need to be remind-
groups that make up the bulk of
ed of the stripes that I wore for a
the HMC's 160,000 visitors a year.
whole year?" asked Melanie Wallis
"The visibility here is certainly
of West Bloomfield, who survived
much, much greater than before,"
Flanking Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig are architects Kenneth Neumann and Joel Smith.
Dachau and Bergen-Belsen.
he said, speaking of the original
I drove by it the other
HMC location next to the Jewish
day, I was literally sick."
other people — especially the young — will be able
Community Center in West Bloomfield, the first
Wallis's daughter, Debbie Wallis Landau of West
to have the life-changing experience at this wonder-
freestanding Holocaust museum when it opened in
Bloomfield, said she is disturbed by the "in-your-
ful place of remembrance."
"When we were there, you'd talk to many Jews
"By placing such a historically significant building in
who didn't even know there was a Holocaust Center.
middle of traffic, I fear the building will be more
There's hardly a person in the city that doesn't know
distraction than an enticement to explore its mes-
there's a Holocaust Center now."
she said. "The building would have been so
The HMC's neighbors said there's a definite buzz
much more powerful in a more isolated setting."
building "impressive and expressive."
about the building, which is slated to open in November.
Rene Lichtman, a hidden child during the
"It's an institution that will definitely enhance the
"A lot of people have been talking about it, won-
meaning of the Holocaust, and it impresses the com-
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER on page 58
dering when it will be done, and looking forward to