Memorial and community centre honour Jewish culture in Poland
Mark Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) by exploring this recently completed exhibition and education centre by Krakow-based architecture firm NArchitekTURA
Architect Bartosz Haduch and his Krakow-based architecture firm NArchitekTURA have just completed two projects for the Jewish community in Oświęcim – the Polish city where the concentration camp of Auschwitz was located during WW2. One of the two is a sculptural piece located in the city’s memorial park. The other is the city’s Jewish Centre, an education and exhibition facility that honours and tells the story of the region’s Jewish population. Both works were a direct commission from the Auschwitz Jewish Center.
The memorial sits on the grounds of a temple, which was destroyed a little over 80 years ago. The design, a composition of seemingly randomly placed stone surfaces, symbolises ‘the ruins of the now defunct Great Synagogue (1863-1939) and the paths of life of the multicultural community that were once criss-crossing in this place,’ explains Haduch.
The project is built in gray sandstone slabs, which feature irregular cuts and scrapes on their surface – a sourced industrial waste material. The patterns not only offer a striking visual effect, but they also hint at the story the memorial tells.
‘The criss-crossing cut-in-stone lines take on a symbolic dimension,’ says Haduch. ‘Without any clear beginning or end, they seem to be heading towards infinity. This dense network of lines evokes the paths of human life, that sometimes just intersect, and at other times connect to go on together.’ Fittingly, the memorial is titled ‘Paths of Life’.
The Jewish Centre, works on which began back in 2014, was completed in stages over the past six years with the final touches added this autumn. Involving the renovation and adaptation of a cluster of historical buildings in the heart of town, the space features a carefully planned exhibition and a series of triangular structures – ‘prisms,’ as Haduch describes them – made out of copper and rusty metal that suggest directions for sightseeing and routes through the displays. Drawing on natural materials, the Jewish heritage and a sensitive approach to cultural and historical nuances, the design feels a fitting ‘twin’ to the memorial’s solution.
‘Who knows, maybe after a few hundred years time, this place will become a mysterious archeological site?’ muses Haduch. ‘After all, throughout centuries, humanity has been learning about ancient times from illustrations and texts immortalized in stone. I often wonder how will be interpreted in the distant future the message hidden in forty pieces of the Memorial Park?’ §