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Miscellaneous > 17.4 Exhibition Design

Stories never to forget - Synagogue Appingedam

by Studio 212 Fahrenheit

We have worked on several special projects. Still, this is one of the most memorable special projects. The foundation responsible for protecting and consolidating the heritage in the Northern of the Netherlands asked us late 2014 to find a way to pay honorable attention to the synagogue in Appingedam, a small town in Groningen. 
Appingedam had a large Jewish community before World War II started. It needs no further explanation that this community fell apart completely during this war, but their synagogue is still intact. And the foundation wanted to honor the community that once lived their lives in this area with this synagogue as a central point.
We immediately  felt that the stories of the people in this community should have our focus. The moment we discovered the significant role stories play in Jewish religion and communities, just like the synagogue as a place were stories were being passed, we knew this was the way to go. We ourselves wanted to get to know these people better. Who were living in this area? What did they do? Where did they go? How was life for them. An extensive research into this community began. 
Fortunately, it was quite easy to find the stories, even though so much time had passed and so few of the community survived. It were heartbreaking and unfinished stories of completely normal lives, devastated by the war and the Hitler regime. And to honor these stories, we wanted to make something special of presenting these stories in the synagogue.
So we have made a bookcase. A very special bookcase.
The bookcase carries  56 books, representing 56 life stories of individuals, belonging to the Jewish community. The books are not finished. They describe what is known of their shortened lives but all have the same amount of pages. This means every book has a series of blank pages to illustrate the unfinished and abruptly ended lives. These 56 books represent all the lives we could not describe because there was no information about these families. Tragically. And so we must never forget. 
But, that is not all. The bookcase itself tells a story as well. We really wanted to bring the stories alive. Therefore we have chosen to design and build a ”living bookcase”. We have consciously chosen the bookcase to carry historical elements; Groningen had a distinctive design of closets and bookcases during the period before the war. We wanted that design for the bookcase. But we also wanted the bookcase to show signs of the destruction both war and time put on things and people. Therefore we have chosen to make the bookcase out of very specific material; Corten steel. This has a robust look of itself, over time. We chose to speed up this process. The steel got a special treatment in order to get a rusted look that would be preserved over time as well. This has been an intensive and completely hand crafted process. 
To symbolize life in contrast to the dramatic death of the people belonging to the books, but also to stress out the importance of life, we have created a ”breathing light” in the bookcase. The lights only turns on if someone approaches the bookcase. And when it does, it lights up and dims in a rhythm that resembles breathing. 
The bookcase has a very prominent place in the synagogue and the books are being read very often by visitors. They have the possibility to get to know these people better and appreciate this a lot. 
The bookcase forms an important and valued addition tot the synagogue in Appingedam and we are really happy we could contribute to getting these stories out there. 

  • Creative Directors Albert Buring / Paul Mulder
  • Art Directors Albert Buring / Paul Mulder
  • Designers Albert Buring / Paul Mulder
  • Illustrators Albert Buring / Paul Mulder
  • Photographers
  • Editors
  • Copywriters
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