Overland Partner’s design for the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for Education and Tolerance gets to the heart of the institution’s purpose. More than simply educating visitors on the historical events of the WWII-era genocide, the museum takes them into the roots of genocide and the uprising of the human spirit in its aftermath.
Genocidal events often follow a particular pattern. While few can imagine accepting the systematic death and destruction of the Third Reich’s final solution, many fail to realize that the seeds of such events are sown continually throughout the world. The dehumanizing of people groups considered “other”— whether through racist epithets absorbed into common language, the steady building of ethnic and religious tensions in disputed territories, or any other power struggle between people groups— is at the root of genocide. By recognizing the animosity of “us vs. them” wherever it exists, we can follow in the footsteps of human rights heroes and further the cause of a shared humanity.
The Dallas Holocaust Memorial Museum and Tolerance Center wanted to take the gravity and somber reality of the Holocaust and use it to inspire tolerance in those who experience the exhibits. Rather than leaving visitors feeling helpless when faced with the darker sides of humanity, the museum presents the antidote to hatred and brings patrons into the light of hope. Overland Partners had the opportunity to express both the weight and the light of this mission in architecture, one of the most powerful forms of civil communication.
Like hope itself, the design is simple in geometry but rich in experience. The tower rises on the northern edge of the site from a single-story plinth, creating a building that is both urbane and monumental. Meanwhile the façade juxtaposes white marble and translucent channel glass for alternating experiences of light.
Beginning in an orientation room, visitors follow a meandering path through exhibition spaces that detail a history of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide, the development of the human rights movement, and the legacy of these events. The journey culminates in a space for contemplation and a call for action: a single drop of water at the center of a shallow pool creates a series of ripples that extends to the pool’s perimeter, symbolizing the great effects that can be made by a single individual.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the full-service museum contains a library, theater, and additional support areas. The museum is set in Dallas’s West End, a historic area with a relatively dense, dark fabric of red brick and industrial space. The area has recently become a thriving cultural area, and the design for the museum contributes to the revitalized spirit, a welcome note of texture in the urban palette, and a constant reminder of the beauty found in diversity.