I took a look at the newly opened Illinois Holocaust and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois on a gloomy Monday this week, the day after the Grand Opening festivities with former President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel. It is really great to see the results of so many people’s efforts, dedication and financial resources to create a visible and lasting testament to the horrors of the Holocaust in Chicago’s own neighborhood. The building was designed by Architect Stanley Tigerman. I wanted to like this building more than I do. Mind you, I have only seen it form the outside, and, as architecture, it feels more like an oddly assembled small industrial building than a cohesive structure. The building is situated on a small piece of land just west of the Eden’s expressway, north of Golf Road, that was donated to the city of Skokie by Walton Street Capital. At 9603 Woods Drive, the building is overshadowed by its neighbor to the North, David Hovey’s Optima Old Orchard Woods Condominiums. As you approach the Museum from the south this is what you see:
I actually arrived from the North, coming from Old Orchard Road, which is the service side of the building; you actually see the West side back of the building first:
The backside evokes references to a barrack like prison, and the boxcar train feel that references the train cars used to deport Jewish and other ethnic prisoners to the concentration camps. From the West side, I actually walked around to the North side in search of the entry but met the dead end of the loading dock. Then I came around to the South side of the building which features a semi-circular memorial fountain:
You actually walk through or around the fountain area to get to the front entrance, but it was not clearly marked as such. Thus, I left the fountain area, thinking I must have missed the entrance on the back of the building. Once I returned there and saw the no entry sign, I made my way around to the front of the building. The entrance is composed of two parts, the darker entrance and the lighter exit. This is supposed to evoke a travel from the darkness of the Holocaust to the light of freedom, education and remembrance:
The entry area feels, shoehorned however, into a thin strip of drive and walkway sandwiched between the building and the highway embankment. It is said that Tigerman situated the building this way so drivers on the Eden’s would notice the building and remember. The two metal towers flanking the courtyard evoke the chimneys of the death camps.
I understand not all of the exhibits on the inside are in place yet, and it will be another month or so before they are. Blair Kamin wrote a Chicago Tribune review. One more view: