Bologna, Italy, 2015


International competition

With Luís Soares & Paulo dos Sousa

The conception of a remembrance site for an event with the significance and scope of the Shoah is bound to be an unconventional task. The sheer scale, ruthlessness and irrationality of this murderous episode make it difficult to convey its disturbing, horrific meaning. A classical single monument would be too limited and at the same time too close to a ‘commemorative’ typology, something that is not adequate given the nature of the event. A strong experience charged with symbolism appears to be a more appropriate way to remember the essence of this memory and help the newer generations to know and reflect on this dark page in History.

The proposal intends to be a contrasting element in the city landscape, taking advantage of the site features in order to draw attention to itself and to what it represents.

Dispersed columns grab the whole site, generating a bold visual impact that aims to trigger the curiosity of passers-by and, once inside, transport them into a different reality. The dispersion of the elements follows a principle of increasing density that relates symbolically with the escalation of anti-Semitic events that culminated in the Holocaust. A sense of disorientation takes hold of those who wander in between - no straight path is set. The uneasy atmosphere of this intertwined space becomes ever more distressful as one approaches the space behind the two existing walls that divide the square.

In the middle of the backspace, where the columns reach a climactic density, a void emerges – a clearing in this imposing forest. It symbolizes the resistance of the victims that survived the tragedy and ultimately the defeat of the intentions of a criminal ideology. It is therefore intended to be an introspective and calm moment in the complex, the setting in which Hope and Peace can return. Only the sky will be visible beside the curtain of columns. An olive tree rises - a strong symbol in itself - showing that Life thrives, despite the harsh conditions.

The columns have variable heights; yet they take part in a single huge three-dimensional composition. These pre-fabricated posts need not have a special structural resistance because they serve no load-bearing purposes, thus saving on weight and material. The exposure to the atmospheric conditions may give different identities to the elements, seeping a reddish tone on their surface. This way the monument’s nature will evolve throughout the years towards an ever more expressive look. It also aims to transcend the visual senses and the daytime setting. Different holes in the columns intend to take advantage of the passing winds to produce whistling sounds that emphasize the uniqueness of the space. During the night each column may subtly illuminate the space, granting it a solemn and unique aura.