Stele, or stela, is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected as a monument, often for funerary or commemorative purposes. Traditional Western gravestones are technically stelae, but are very rarely described by the term.
Our experience of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is a powerful transformational space, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. Completed in 2004, the 19,000 m2 site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs, or stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.
The site is remarkable from the ground. On the approach it resembles a graveyard like the old Jewish cemeteries seen in many other great European cities. In these older Jewish cemeteries, layers of gravestones are piled high and protrude from beneath the ground like jagged sharks teeth. The Berlin Stalea stones by contrast appear to have been laid in a measured somber order and yet transform on mass into a space more akin to an epic modern art installation.
Walking though the Stelae one is struck by the scale and size of the stones. They have a refined elegance and due to the very clever positioning, light is thrown around them into a variety of linear angles. The play of light at various times of day is mesmerizing and contemplative. Ones own sense of personal scale is played with, as the stones move from small to large around you. At one moment you feel like a mouse and another a giant.
The stelae are designed to produce “an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”
*Images personal & Wikipedia.