Designed by Rome-based office SET Architects in 2016, the Bologna Shoah Memorial commemorates the victims of the Holocaust in a site located on the edge of Bologna’s historical centre, close to the newly installed high-speed train station. SET’s design, chosen as the winning entry as a result of the international competition held by Bologna’s Jewish Community, deals with the immense challenge of creating a place to keep the memory of the Holocaust --Shoah in Hebrew--alive, which despite raising many questions, offers no preconceived answers.
Sitting on a plot of 1,950 square meters, the Memorial is made up of two symmetrical cor-ten steel parallelepiped blocks, each measuring ten by ten metres. The blocks, which sit adjacent to one another, create a dramatic pathway that begins with a width of 160 centimetres before narrowing to just 80 centimetres, generating a strong sensory experience; this gradual opening invites visitors to step inside the sculpture where there is space for individual contemplation —an experience also reminiscent of the narrow pathways between the massive stone slabs of Peter Eisenman’s Berlin Holocaust Memorial.
Once inside the passageway, one steps on a surface of basalt stone chippings, commonly used to form the bed of a railway track, evoking memories of the Judenrampe, the railroad tracks between the two Auschwitz camps. On either side, two grids of horizontal and vertical metal sheets create repetitive box-shaped modules reminiscent of the dark, airless cells of the dormitories in the concentration camps. Introducing a strong language of symbolisms, SET Architects use cor-ten steel, a material that continues to evolve around the ambient environmental conditions, as a medium displaying “the vestiges of time”.
video by Visual lab + Sì Produzioni.