Dezeen Magazine

Olson Kundig completes Noah's ark-informed children's museum in Berlin

A doughnut-shaped timber "ark" filled with animal sculptures sits at the centre of the recently opened ANOHA children's museum at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Architecture studio Olson Kundig designed the museum, which is an addition to the Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum Berlin, to be a space for "discovery, exploration and play".

The structure was clad in timber
Top: the structure had a doughnut shape. Above: clerestory windows were placed at the top of the structure

Set opposite the existing museum's building, ANOHA was built within a brutalist former flower market. The architect's concept aims to use the story of Noah's ark as an accessible way of understanding issues of climate change.

Originally called Arche Noah – Noah's ark in German – the name was changed to ANOHA to be easier for visitors of all ages to pronounce.

Olson Kundig used a pale timber
Timber lines the exterior of the play space

The 1960s concrete market hall was left largely untouched, with a contrasting timber structure inserted within the concrete frame.

"The 585-square-meter ark is inspired by two seemingly disparate sources: an ancient Sumerian text that describes a circular ark, and Space Station V, a ship from Stanley Kubrik's film 2001: A Space Odyssey," said the studio.

"The warm, curvilinear ark offers a softening counterpoint to the rectilinear brutalist structure of the existing hall, while the structural ribs within the ark echo the concrete ribbing that frames the skylights overhead."

Olson Kundig used a wooden palette throughout
Play areas over flow from the interior of the space

Before entering the ark, an immersive space designed by artist Wolfram Spyra evokes the feeling of being underwater through a series of educational exhibits, representative of the story of the flood from the Torah.

This leads into the ark itself, where a variety of different spatial conditions have been created using ramps, steps, interactive displays and play spaces, addressing everything from biological life-cycles to the design of flood-resistant homes.

"We designed ANOHA through the lens of a child's experience, allowing them to engage with important cultural issues in creative, age-appropriate ways," said design principal Alan Maskin.

More than 150 animal sculptures that are dotted throughout the space, were created by 18 German artists using repurposed and recycled everyday items.

These sculptures can be "fed", "groomed", and even produce "waste" in the form of coloured balls which can be used to "fertilise" the accompanying plant sculptures.

Sculptures were hung across the interior of the ark by Olson Kundig
The interior has a curved design. The photo is by Kubix Berlin.

Clerestory glazing on both the interior and exterior walls of the doughnut shape draws in light and frames views of the concrete structure outside.

Doors lead out into the centre of the ark, where an open space surrounded by low platforms can be used for gatherings and events.

Timber battens line the walls of the ark by Olson Kundig
Animals double as play spaces. The photo is by Yves Sucksdorff.

Ventilation and lighting within the ark have been designed to work in tandem with the existing structure, which features openable louvres within its curved roof sections that open and close depending on air temperature.

Animal sculptures also featured in another child-centric design recently completed by designer Sarit Shani Hay at the Design Museum Holon.

Photography is by Hufton + Crow unless stated otherwise.

More images and plans

Plans of the building
section drawing of the space
The structure was placed in a concrete room
It has a curved design
The interior glows when lit
Wood contrasts with the concrete
The interior is wood
Play areas were placed inside
animals were made from wood
it was designed to echo noahs ark
Boxes can be used for playing
Children pictured playing
There are multiple levels
Windows look out to the concrete roof
There are ramps and stairs
It has a boat like look