Architecture & Auschwitz (Evidence Room)

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Evidence Room is now showing at the Venice Architecture Biennal. It’s a small and simple room the center of which are reconstructions of objects from the gas chambers at Auschwitz. A work of art put together by historian Robert Jan van Pelt and architects Donal McKay with Anne Bordeleau and Sacha Hastings, the exhibition stems from the forsenic evidence (architectural drawings and documents) produced by van Pelt in the libel case against Deborah Lipstadt mounted by David Irving, a Holocaust denier who infamously argued that there were no gas chambers at Auschwtiz. The objects in the middle of the room are full scale plaster models of a gas hatch from the top of the gas chambers, a gas chute used to lower the Zyklon B into the chamber, as well as a gas proof door with peephole to the chamber.

Viewed visually, there is nothing to distinguish the objects in Evidence Room from any other work of contemporary point. For the exhibit to sink in, I suppose you have to stop, read, and look. About the formal and ethereal, even beautiful quality of the exhibit, van Pelt comments here in the NYT,  “I wanted it to have a kind of ideal quality, like we were inside the architect’s mind.” The effect is clean, neat, and sober. One can only guess that the pure form of the presentation is meant to intensify the chilly affective register of the archival evidence  and the reconstructions based upon it. This interview, which you can read here at Border Crossings , with van Pelt at Border Crossings is first rate, essential reading on design, history, mass murder, forsenics, and the ethics of architecture.

Much better than the ones that appear in the NYT, the digital photographs were grabbed here online from de zeen




About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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