Floating Numbers at the Jewish Museum Berlin

Floating Numbers at the Jewish Museum Berlin

(a set of nesting narratives)

The museum building tells through its architecture a story of fragmentation and destruction. In particular, the bird’s eye view shows it as a broken and unravelled Star of David.

The exterior looks as if it has been attacked and slashed

even the memorial garden looks off kilter, and in winter, bleak

The exterior forms a (somewhat overpowering!) framing narrative (in fact a meta-narrative) for the many narratives told in its interior.
The interior is often bare, sometimes it looks abandoned

sometimes the sense of being only inhabited by fragments and memories of pain is explicit and refers explicitly to the death camps

On the other hand, the exhibition content is typically joyous and full of life. One particular exhibit uses narrative, symbolism and ritual to draw us into the arcance world of numerology, which is a very important part of both the Torah and the Kabbalah.
You enter a room which contains a long table round which visitors stand.

This evokes the Jewish traditon of eating together on every Shabat, and in particular at Pessach (Passover), when people stand to eat. Anyone who is Jewish or has watched Woody Allen films will know that jewish people love to talk during the meal, typically arguing, gossiping and telling each other stories.
The table is covered with numbers instead of food

as people reach for the numbers (food for the mind)

the numbers open up and tell their story of their relationship to Jewish learning and culture.


edited 22 November, 2015 by Stuart Jones

Associated Practices


Rowan Moore (2014) argues that it is a terrible misconception to think that architecture is a visual art. To the extent that you do indeed see architecture, it is still not a purely visual experience. When you look at something, you interpret it, you make associations, find memories evoked, gain a greater or lesser sense of the physical efforts and skill that went into making a structure. Architecture does not work with one sense alone, but with synaesthetic hybrids. Such synaesthetic hybrids can be understood as narrative environments.

Philip Johnson thinks that it is the modern perversion of photography that freezes architecture to three dimensions or, in some buildings, to two dimensions. However, Johnson argues, architecture is surely not the design of space, certainly not the massing or organizing of volumes. These are auxiliary to the main point which is the organization of procession. Architecture exists only in time.

At the dawn of the 21st century, Charles Jencks (2003) perceived the beginnings of a new paradigm emerging in architecture. It related, Jencks thought, to a deep transformation going on in the sciences, which, in time, will permeate all other areas of life. The new sciences of complexity, which concern such notions as fractals, nonlinear dynamics, the new cosmology and self-organising systems, have brought about this change in perspective. We have moved from a mechanistic view of the universe to one that is self-organising at all levels, from the atom to the galaxy. Illuminated by the computer, this new worldview is paralleled by changes now occurring in architecture.


Derrida, J. (1986). Point de Folie – maintenant l’architecture. Available from http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1412058.files/Week 8/DerridaPointdeFolie.pdf [Accessed 1 June 2017].

Jencks, C. (2003). The New paradigm in architecture. Hunch. Available from http://www.charlesjencks.com/articles.html [Accessed 8 October 2011].

Johnson, P. (1965). Whence & whither: the processional element in architecture. Perspectiva, 9/10 167–178. Available from http://www.jstor.or/stable/1566915 [Accessed 8 June 2011].

Moore, R. (2014). A masterclass in spatial awareness. [Sensing Spaces : Architecture Reimagined – review]. Observer, 26 January, 33. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jan/26/sensing-spaces-royal-academy-review [Accessed 30 January 2014].

Edited on 1 June 2017 by Allan parsons

edited 18 November, 2018 by Mr. Administrator

Designing systems for one or more users to interact with (or with each other within). The term interaction implies an unfolding two-way exchange.

edited 5 October, 2015 by Admin

Associated Terms

A framing narrative contains a second (or more) embedded narrative(s), for which it provides a context or setting. Sometimes the framing narrative will begin and end the narrative as a whole, providing ‘book ends’,  other times it will simply be present at the beginning of the narrative, acting as an introduction, sometimes it reappears as a linking device between a series of embedded narratives. The framing narrative “sets the scene” for the embedded narrative(s), giving us a context in which we can read and interpret what they tell.

A special form of a framing narrative is a meta narrative, where the containing and contained narratives are thematically and/or content related.

Framing sometimes comes as nesting narratives or Matroushka Doll narratives where there is a series of narratives – A frames B, B frames C, C frames D etc etc.

edited 6 October, 2015 by Admin

Associated Terms in context

Meta Narrative

in Narrative environment design

A framing narrative that refers to the narratives it encloses and with which it frequently shares diegetic elements: they share (at least partially) the same storyworld, maybe telling about different parts or aspects of it.

The enclosing can (often will) be physical/spatial as well as narrative.

Stuart Jones

edited 4 September, 2018 by Admin