Representing the Holocaust in Architecture
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Of all arts, architecture in particular proves to be a medium most readily suited to provide viewers with an exceptional experience of the materiality of trauma as the purpose of commemorative buildings is to exhibit and embody the imperative to remember in spatial, physical representation. The Latin word monumentum is derived from monere: to warn, to recall; a ‘monument’ calls upon the faculty of memory to testify to historical events, to subsume history in a memorial culture. Consequently, monuments become artefacts commemorating events for future generations and individuals. Besides, twentieth-century and in particular Second World War monuments, which rely decreasingly on conventional or academic forms, invite critical reflection and an interpretive empathy with a past collective trauma in the act of mourning and grieving for the dead. In order to understand how monuments evolved from earlier twentieth-century modernist conceptions to the more experimental visions from the 1980s onwards, a brief exploration of what is at stake in this ‘rethinking of architecture’1 is necessary.