Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Concept of the Memorial Complex in Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camp by Arch group
March 10th, 2015 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Arch group
70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is an occasion to think again about those events and their significance for modern society.
Oswiecim (Auschwitz) is synonymous with the greatest evil in the history of mankind. What happened is so monstrously and bloodcurdling that does not fit into the average person’s head.
To coincide with this date architectural competition for the concept of AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL CULTURAL CENTRE was arranged. However, the competition is aimed more at creating a local community center with workshops, audiences and theater, located in the heart of the city, far from the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp, which had become the epicenter of events. Of course such center is necessary to the city, but in our opinion there are far more important matters for mankind that we all need to deal with in this exceptional place. We understand the necessity for a complete rethinking of the situation that’s why we created a project of complex which is really needed at this place.
The aim of our project is to look in completely new way on the meaning of such memorials and museums. We want to create a place where prophylactic treatment from the evil that exists in every human being will occur, and not merely exhibiting materials. Means currently used in museums and memorial centers in our opinion are not sufficiently effective, because they do not focus on the main issue: how the most ordinary person can become an executioner or be involved in such crimes. Nowadays everywhere the visitor is invited to try on the role of victim. But victims do not choose their fate, they are not guilty; while becoming the butchers or evil henchmen are voluntary. Therefore, by visiting such complex person should get a forceful vaccination against evil.
The fact that 75-80% of people in need of such therapy and vaccination is strongly support by the post-war research of human conformity, obedience to authority and the propensity to violence. Among them we have to say about the Milgram experiment in which 87.5% of subjects of the experiment \”killed\” the victim, obeying immoral orders of the scientist, giving electric shock up to 450 volts. In the Asch conformity experiment 75% of the subjects agreed with obviously erroneous opinion of the majority. In the Stanford prison experiment (SPE) students playing the role of guards in 2 days began to show sadistic tendencies. These experiments were repeated in different countries and conclusively proved the versatility of the results: 75% of people are ready to fulfill the most horrific orders. That reduction of this index, the vaccine against acceptance of evil and obeyance should become the main mission of the museum and memorial complex.
The concept of preventive memorial complex
To change something in people and their nature, it is necessary to cause strong emotions, make them go through a situation, in which the executioners and their victims were. Therefore, the memorial should be located in close vicinity to the camp Auschwitz II. At the same time it should not materially affect the general appearance of the camp in any way.
Our decision is to place the main part of the complex under the ground, stretching it to 400 meters along the main camp fence beyond the road. Entrance of the complex is located near the main entrance of the camp.
We divide the complex into two main parts:
The Way of the Executioner (underground) and Gallery of Memory (above ground).
The underground part – is a long concrete corridor with exposure.
The purpose of this exhibition is to show how easily and insensibly anyone can become an executioner or part of a great evil. Therefore, there is a long smooth descent on the way to the underground part. The exhibition has consistently demonstrated the stages of life of ordinary people, which eventually lead to participation in the grand crime. First we see the usual frames of normal family life, ordinary beautiful houses with flower beds, etc. Then we see various documents that fix how person moves step by step to the final, not realizing where the point of no return. At the end of the exposition we see the ready-to-do executioners and results of their actions. While viewing the exhibition visitor passes through a series of simple tests, drawn up by professional psychologists, which do not contain a direct allusion to their essence and as a result show people how easy it is to manipulate them and how easily to led them astray.
Also every exhibition visitor meets with the known and above-mentioned experiments of Milgram, Asch and Stanford prison experiment.
After that the visitor enters the large room, which aim is to show the consequences of the wrong choice and give an idea of the scale of the tragedy in the death camp. This empty space in the center of which a glass cube fully stocked with mobile phones stands (6x6x6 meters). This cube can hold about half a million phones that demonstrates this figure. Modern phones are chosen in order to make a person feel that this can happen nowadays with any of us that evil is not a thing of the past. The walls of this room are covered with mirror glass completely, so that the reflections of the cube form an infinite field of such cubes, symbolizing the massive scale of such crimes in our world.
Then the visitor climbs the ramp around the cube, behind a mirrored wall and in the process seeing the cube through the mirrored glass. There are no natural light from the street in the underground part, but climbing the ramp the visitor gradually comes into the surface, a glass gallery. He opposes the distant barracks and can finally realize that everything about what he was told in the underground is a terrible reality. Going through the gallery, he goes by the endless barracks, in which hundreds of thousands of real people were contained. This is gallery memory to the victims. Here are the lists and photographs of those whom are still remain located directly on the glass, as well as endless painted silhouettes symbolizing all the victims. These silhouettes, even with a height of 3 meters, will create a line length of 22.5 km, or fill the entire plane gallery walls (3m height and a length of 300m). As long as the visitor goes through the gallery, he is coming to the final realization of what happened.
Both parts of the complex intentionally made really extended. Firstly this is focus on the successive parts of the exposure as a memorial is the way in which a person has to go to get vaccinated against evil. Secondly this corresponds to the entire structure of the camp, which was basically a continuous conveyor for destruction.
Passing the entire gallery visitor comes to the main gate of the camp, where he can continue to have exploring direct on the territory.
The Black Hall
It must be told about the part devoted to the atrocities of the executioners of particular note. Most museums are trying to show as clearly as possible the horror of the events with scary movie frames and photo chronicle depicting the victims of the death camps. This is fundamentally wrong, because it results aversion which does not allow you to see in the rotting corpses the same people as we, and people try to avoid the sight and ignore the situation. But our aim is not to demonstrate what becomes of people after the terrible death, but make it clear that every person that got to camp is the same human being, the same flesh and blood as the one who visited the memorial. These photographs are not scaring. Really scares the fact that millions of human beings, especially women, children and the elderly, were systematically destroyed on the line, specially created for this purpose. Therefore, we have a separate room for such a photo and film documents, which is located apart, beyond a cube with phones.
At the entrance visitor will be warned about the content of the exhibition, so every person can consciously decide whether or not attend it. This decision will increase the number of school age visitors who are now not frequent visitors of such complexes on the reasons described above.
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