With his work of memory concerning a memory symbol, the synagogue in Stommeln, Mischa Kuball roams the social area of our urban environment. Like the striking conversion of the Mannesmann high-rise into a mega symbol in 1990 or, two years later, the “bridge of light” project at the Bauhaus, this too is a temporary installation.While the architecture of the high-rise in Düsseldorf temporarily metamorphosed into a mighty light sculpture that dominated the nocturnal skyline, it was the use of an exterior wall as projection screen of geometric shapes that ingeniously highlighted the utopian paradigm of the Bauhaus at the expense of the protected monument status of the building in Dessau, this incunable of modernist construction.Kuball’s “refraction house,” too, belongs in the stress field of these remarkable two works. Like the erstwhile work in Düsseldorf, this building too is illuminated from within, though with much greater intensity, as if the symbol was to be superimposed upon itself.And like in Dessau, the light hits neighbouring buildings, but disperses far enough to cause walls, fences, trees and shrubs to cast long shadows.
Kuball’s idea is as persuasive as it is simple. The synagogue, though barely visible from the main street, boxed in and tugged away as it is, becomes a centre of attraction especially at nightfall and at night due to the extraordinary glare, rousing our curiosity enough to come closer. At the same time, the blinding lights turn us away, deflecting the attention fully back to ourselves and to the environment of which this place of worship forms the centre.The pooled energy inside makes the walls of the synagogue appear pitch-black and its window panes dazzling white, and both seem in any case dematerialised. Sashes and muntins of the five windows and of the lunette break the light rays and cast a dark pattern into space, most impressively so in damp weather. This creates a stark contrast between the concentration of the monument which outshines itself, on the one hand, and the diffusion of a light that projects no images or geometric shapes but only itself, on the other hand. The contrast is enhanced by the abrupt change between inside and outside, between inhabited and uninhabited, between spiritual and profane.All of this against the background that affiliates