Memorial builing Hinzert - Wandel Hoefer Lorch + Hirsch

There are many ways that one can deal with memorial sites in architectonical terms. The approach that the architects Wandel, Hoefer, Lorch and Hirsch took at the former prison- and concentrationcamp Hinzert (near Saarbrücken) was the tactic of the "fremdkörper": an autonomous object in the landscape.
It's a clear marking of the otherwise "unreadable" landscape: the object is the metaphorical X that marks the spot (as Diller and Scofidio wrote in their book "Visite aux armées / back to the front").
In itself, i'm never too sure about this method of putting an alien body of remembrance on a site. For one, it sends a message of disconnection with past, present and future: the time of the acts that should be recalled is cut off from the present in time, and therefore also in place. This means that such a method of memory imprints a distant matter of memorial: one can only remember what is not him, what is not the private and what is not the site. One remembers the abstract "them", far away. There is not a single second that the visitor is confronted with the past as part of the personal history, or is forced to think differently than before.

That being said and done: I can understand why the architects chose this approach: they were confronted with a vast, outstretched landscape of the former concentration camp that needed a documentation center - which is inhabiting the strangely shaped autonomous object.

Maybe the object shouldn't be read as above, but is it explaining the activity of documenting and commemorating as one of distance and uncertainty? That the viewer from the present (we, the visitors) can read all they want about the holocaust, see pictures and movies, but can never fully comprehend the past? This would be a formal interpretation of the words of Eli Wiesel, who stated that 'Auschwitz negates any form of literature, as it defines all systems, all doctrines', with which he implied that the non-survivor cannot approach the historical event, but can only glimpse at it from afar.

I don't know for sure what the motivations of the architects for this building were. All I know is that it functions very well for a small memorial site such as Hinzert: it adds a language the site wasn't speaking before.

No comments: