Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, Ukraine
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center
A city records the past in different ways. Stories and memories are passed down through generations, they accumulate and are retained in the layers of the urban fabric. Under the Babyn Yar Ravine lives a memory of one of the most tragic moments in history. By revealing this landscape, the stories of the victims and their loved ones are brought to light, marking both an absence and presence.Read more ↓
In the outskirts of Kiyv, the absence of the Babyn Yar ravine bears witness to one of the most tragic moments in history: the massacre of more than 33.000 Jews in 1941.
As an abstraction of this historical ravine, our concept is centered around a gash – a new ravine – created in the earth.
The ravine walls, clad in Ukrainian Limestone, fold through the site and culminate as the sides widen and fold up a surface. The ravine is flaking in layers underneath the folded surface, evoking the weight of the earth that is displaced.
When descending into the ravine the sound of the city and the noise of the nearby streets is slowly reduced, creating a quiet and contemplative space. At the end of the ravine, the visitor gets a slight glimpse of the space opening. Flaking layers of slabs are edging a large open space, where the ravine floor is covered with water. From here the visitor continues to the exhibition space.
Entering the permanent exhibition visitors will turn right towards the large roof lit excavation of the original ravine bottom. This is where the exhibition that tells the story and situates the evidence of the Babyn Yar Massacre starts. The exhibition comprises three spatial chapters: Pre-Event, Main-Event, and Post-Event.
The atrium exposes and connects all floors in the building through stairs and open balconies. Looking up, the underside of the slabs clad in wood reveals a warm hue. The balconies create open plazas and visual contact between each floor and are used for informal gatherings, meetings, and workspaces. By creating a mixture of open spaces and separate offices, we ensure as much transparency as possible. The layout is flexible, with no supporting walls, and can be adjusted to changing needs during the design process and with future changes.
A brighter future
Exiting the exhibition space, the path ramps up into a high daylit foyer space overlooking a quiet pool of water enclosed by the high ravine walls. The pool’s surface reflects the sky and the trees at the edge of the ravine. When moving towards the water’s surface the visitor will come upon individual engraved stones on the opposite ravine wall.
These engraved stones contain the names of the limited number of people who were identified as victims at Babyn Yar. 3,000 engraved stones for named victims are dispersed along the courtyard wall. 67,000 victims were never identified, and an equal number of absent stones represent those, who still wait for their names to be engraved.
The overall materiality of the building is the combination of the Ukrainian limestone cladding and oiled Ukrainian oak. The timeless and robust natural materiality will be the embracing backdrop of many different activities.
The imprint of the ravine in the landscape signifies a mark that remains over time so that the memories of Babyn Yar are not forgotten and serve to teach visitors about the tragic events that took place there. The stones used represent an agelessness and symbolize the importance of democracy and the fragility of humanity.
Our proposal for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center balances between remembrance, honor, and education – and looks toward the future that is imperative to the site.