According to Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, a Dutch author and architectural historian, constructing Auschwitz was “the greatest crime ever committed by architects.” Known for his work in what he coined as “architectural forensics,” van Pelt famously testified in the landmark libel case filed in Britain’s High Court of Justice in 2000, David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt. The evidence he gathered by studying the efficacy in the design of both the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau helped prove that the infamous concentration camp was intentionally designed by German architects to systematically kill over one million Jews during World War II. In tandem, it denounced the British Holocaust denier who filed the complaint and secured the widely-held belief that the horrific human massacre had actually happened. That trial inspired van Pelt to tell the story in his 2002 book, The Case for Auschwitz, which became the basis of a special exhibition commissioned for the 15th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016. That seminal show, The Evidence Room, is now on view for the first time in the U.S. at the Hirshhorn National Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washingon, D.C. The exhibition depicts van Pelt’s body of proof in the sculptural form of 65 wall-mounted plaster casts that replicate the blueprints, bills, survivor’s drawings, photographs, and artifacts he acquired on the construction and operation of Auschwitz from 1941 to 1943. The ghostly, all-white installation also utilizes materials such as steel and wood and features three, full-scale building elements, dubbed “monuments,” that were part of the original killing rooms at Auschwitz. There’s a gas chamber door, which notably hinges outward and proves that architects revised the entryways of the on-site morgues to become gas chambers. There’s also a wall hatch and ladder, which guards climbed to throw the cyanide gas down into the chambers. Lastly, on view is a floor-to-ceiling gas column through which the deadly pesticide Zyklon B was routed down into the two underground chambers. Though Nazis blew up the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other concentration camps in an effort to destroy evidence of the Holocaust at the end of WWII, van Pelt’s archival documents from the trial argue the truth of these atrocities point-blank: that the architecture was predetermined for mass killing. The Evidence Room is an immersive experience originally designed three years ago by van Pelt and his colleagues at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, including Donald McKay, Anne Bordeleau, and Sascha Hastings. This iteration of the installation was organized by the Hirshhorn’s assistant curator Betsy Johnson, in collaboration with The Evidence Room Foundation, a new nonprofit that will maintain and fund the exhibition. The version of the show at the Hirshhorn will run through September 8.
Posts tagged with "The Holocaust":
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex, Daniel Libeskind, photographer Caryl Englander, and curator Henri Lustiger Thaler of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum have teamed up to produce a public outdoor exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. Through the Lens of Faith will run from July 1, 2019, through October 31, 2020, and will present museum visitors with reflections—both literal and figurative—on the immensity of the Holocaust. Twenty-one ten-foot-tall steel slats will be installed along the path to the museum in an arrangement akin to prison bars or prisoners’ stripes, while the side of each monolith facing away from the path will be finished to a mirror sheen. The textural interplay is intended to reference the struggle between freedom and oppression, depicting the yearning for freedom felt by the interned. On the path-facing side, each of the panels will hold a recessed portrait, shot by Englander, of an Auschwitz survivor in their home. The photographs, taken over three years and of Jewish, Polish, and Sinti survivors, are of volunteers drawn from a network of Holocaust survivors associated with Brooklyn’s Amud Aish Memorial Museum. A darkened pane of glass inscribed with the subject’s first-person account of their internment, and retention of faith, will be lain over each photograph. Below that will be information compiled after the Holocaust on the subject’s family. “We can’t understand the millions that were murdered in the Holocaust, but we can understand one person’s story," said Daniel Libeskind in a press release. “This exhibition brings the stories of the survivors into focus, while weaving their intimate accounts into the context of the camp and contemporary life.” “The project asks an often thought of question,” explained Englander, “but never so purposefully explored in visual and discursive terms: How did a largely religious population maintain their sense of identity and culture in a Deathworld, called Auschwitz? This place was structured to disarm any form of dignity and resistance. My work is a visual testament to the absolute endurance of human courage. With each person I had the privilege to meet, I felt their resilience, their hope and their joy for life.”
On Wednesday, Canada opened its first Holocaust memorial, making it the last Allied nation to erect a structure of remembrance for the victims of the genocide. Designed by Studio Libeskind, the memorial was chosen in 2014 from a shortlist of proposals by other familiar names like David Adjaye and Ron Arad. The completed structure is located in Ottawa, and was supported by the National Holocaust Monument Development Council as well as the Canadian government. Landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky and museum planner Gail Dexter Lord served principal roles on the design team alongside Daniel Libeskind, and were joined by Claude Cormier as the landscape architect and the University of Toronto's Doris Bergen as a content advisor. Seen from above, the memorial clearly resembles a stretched Star of David – the same star Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. It is also meant to honor the other groups persecuted – including Jehovah's Witnesses, queer individuals, political prisoners, the mentally ill, and others – many of whom were forced to wear differently colored stars or patches to distinguish their identities to Nazi officers. Constructed of six concrete and metal walls, the monument forms chambers of reflection at varying sizes, including a tall triangular contemplation room nearly closed off to the rest. Huge in scale, some of Burtynsky's photos are painted onto the walls by an artist's team led by William Lazos. They depict concentration camps, the railways that led people to them, and other eerily vacant landscapes. Conifers are planted surrounding the memorial, giving an even heightened sense of stillness. According to the project's Instagram, these plants were meant to typify Canada's boreal forest, and represent "the struggle of immigrants — those who’ve come to Canada and survived and thrived in difficult conditions." The choice to focus on landscape was well-considered – particularly, as Lord outlined to The Art Newspaper, because of the importance of landscape imagery in Canadian history, identity, and popular imagination. “You can look at a landscape and just think it’s just beautiful, but in fact, some of the most terrible things that have ever happened to human beings happened there,” Lord said. Lord went on to say that she hoped the monument inspired visitors to reflect on the horrific deeds committed not just during the Holocaust, but by colonists to the indigenous peoples of Canada. Pastoral landscapes often have a disturbing habit of distracting from the violence of their history, and Canada's green hills are not exempt. This point also resonates with one of the central stories behind the monument: that Canada refused to offer asylum to many victims of the Holocaust. In one devastating instance, a German ship called the MS St. Louis containing 937 Jewish refugees was turned away from Cuba, the U.S., and finally Canada. After returning to Europe, 254 of its passengers perished in concentration camps. They are memorialized in many places, most recently by a Twitter account that went viral after the travel ban at the beginning of President Donald Trump's term of office (which has similarly denied refugees seeking asylum from political unrest). Canada's new monument is meant, in part, to honor their lives as well, and acknowledge the state's role in their demise at a time of extraordinary need. Another narrative highlighted by the memorial centers on the contributions of Holocaust survivors to Canadian society after the war – some 40,000 of whom moved to Canada upon release from concentration camps.
First the cracks, and now this? Sure, Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin has seen its fair share of controversies over the years, but it doesn't get much worse than a fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine. According to the New Statesman's scoop, easyJet had no idea the Holocaust memorial had been used as the backdrop for a bunch of models because its magazine is produced by an outside company. That company has yet to speak up about the matter, so it remains unclear whether the fine folks at INK publishing are ignorant or just stupid. Looks like Hannah Arendt is right once again. UPDATE: Ink Publishing, the company behind the offending shoot responds, and it's worse than we thought:
Ink Publishing sincerely apologises to anyone who may have been offended by the fashion shoot in the November issue of easyJet inflight, in which a model is photographed in front of Berlin's Holocaust Memorial. Far from trivializing the Memorial, on the contrary the intention was to encourage passengers to visit for themselves. The aim of each monthly shoot is to highlight an easyJet destination and tell a relevant narrative. The shoot was intended to not only promote local design talent and the city itself, but to raise awareness. From an educational perspective, it is of the utmost importance that visitors to Berlin see the Jewish Museum (who gave us written permission to shoot in their grounds) and Holocaust Memorial first hand. We absolutely regret any offence caused.We're speechless yet again.