more than black and white


SITE: Plazów, Krakow 


It was apparent that the Plaszów site, a former WWII Labour Camp and Liban Quarry, is scarred by history and the ambition for memorial is eminent. The site is currently comprised of two layers of memory, the first is memory of the site’s history and the second is the memories of users today. I want to maintain this but make remembrance optional and encourage the stimulation of memories for today’s users.

Avoidance of imposed memorials and manipulated emotion is vital. With reference to Auschwitz-Birkenau an abundance of structured information and maintenance has the potential to desensitise concentration camp sites, consequently a lack of true emotion and etiquette is lost. Witnessing holocaust tourism at Auschwitz has confirmed that a personal experience is highly valuable, especially of a site with such a raw and significant history. A visitor’s experience of the Plaszów site should be tailored to their needs, thus information, be it historical, botanical or ecological, should be optional and not imposed.

Personal experiences of the site informed the design of mnemonic devices and existing remnants will be retained as vehicles for thought. Ruins are fragments and serve as memory devices in three different ways; firstly they materialise and preserve the course of time, making it visible; secondly they concretise remembrance by containing and projecting memories; and thirdly they stimulate and inspire us to recall and imagine. A visitor to Plaszów with some knowledge of the site’s history goes around the site looking for evidence; however, since the evidence isn’t obvious the uncertainty is emotive.

Personal experiences of the site informed the design of mnemonic devices. Where changes need to be implemented, for safety or ecological reasons, a valued experience can be recreated through design. For example, the dramatic contrast of the encompassing, bright yellow, Coneflower provided a very tunnelled view, which led to a vast view of the quarry. This is a transition that could be replicated through design if the invasive Coneflower were to be removed.