International Design Competition for the Sites of Jewish History in Lviv includes three separate competitions for three spaces in the city that have important connections to the life of Jewish community before the Second World War, and to its destruction during the Nazi occupation. Competitors are asked to submit ideas for each or all of three sites in the city. One of the sites was the Yanivsky Camp Memorial Site which was the site of the former Yanivsky concentration camp at the current Vynnytsya Street.
The design competition for Yanivsky Camp Memorial Site was won by Ming-Yu Ho (Taiwan), Ceanatha la Grange (USA) and Wei Huang (China). Their design intent was to clearly memorializing more than 100,000 lives lost at this location, the design provides flexibility for future users, who may want to contribute their own understanding of the Yanivsky Concentration Camp to events at the site. The history of the Yanivsky Concentration Camp Memorial is exposed in a respectful manner that encourages a deeper understanding of the atrocities committed during World War II. A light touch keeps many of the site’s elements intact, and reveals past history through the judicious addition of landscape features. These features, and the minimal changes to the overall site, make visible the crimes that took place here, and leave visitors with a sense of peace and hope for the future.
IMAGES & TEXT © Ming-Yu Ho, Ceanatha la Grange and Wei Huang
A sequence of screens along the entry path eliminates long views, keeping visitors focused on what’s directly ahead. The screened entrance to the site creates a sense of uncertainty about the experience to come, limiting information about the site. This uncertainty echoes the experience of prisoners arriving at the camp during World War II. Stacks of rough hewn stone recall tombstones and pull visitors deeper into the site. After passing through the final screen, a vista opens up, letting the visitor take in the major features of the site.
The main path through the site is a wide floating boardwalk. Hovering two feet above the ground, the boardwalk limits intrusions into the soil. The separation from the soil indicates to visitors that the site is sacred—the soil absorbed the remains of so many human lives that it must be treated with great respect. The width of the boardwalk creates opportunities for visitors to stop and contemplate their surroundings.
The planks of the boardwalk are inscribed with text that illuminates the site’s history. At the entrance to the camp site, the text will document the story of Jewish community in Lviv prior to World War II; as visitors walk deeper into the site, excerpts from Nazi war documents appear, followed by, survivors’ accounts of the camp. Finally, as the floating boardwalk fades into the grove of trees, expressional of hope for the future appear on the planks of the boardwalk
Landform and Tombstones
The floating boardwalk continues along the top of the raised earthwork, providing sweeping views of the entire site. The front slope of the earthwork is clad in tombstone-shaped stones, stacked on the slope in a manner reminiscent of bodies tossed into a mass grave. The stones bear no markings, memorializing the hundreds of thousands murdered on the site whose names have been lost to history. And, like people, no two stones are exactly the same. A portion of the floating boardwalk meets the earth at the bottom of the slope of tombstones. Here visitors can finally touch the soil and walk among the fallen tombstones. A plaza-like area is formed here by the earthwork and the edge of the boardwalk. The scattered tombstones in the earth offer visitors the chance to interact with the stones as they contemplate the 100,000 individuals murdered at this site.
The design gently re-forms the pond into a rough rectangle that captures on-site runoff. The expanse of water encourages contemplation and reflection on the cycles of life.
New trees planted in a grid pick up the rhythm of tombstones in a large cemetery. The angle of the rows of trees in the grid matches the angles in the Star of David, and visitors can visually connect trees to form multiple Stars of David in the grove. The grid pattern celebrates Jewish culture and recognizes of the importance of Jewish history in Lviv.
Here, visitors can walk among the rows of trees. The growth of the trees and their organization into a grid symbolize a new beginning for the site—the past is acknowledged and the atrocities recognized. Although it is no longer possible to create individual memorials for each life lost here, the trees become a gesture of a cemetery that seeks to memorialize the value of all human life.
Grading at the site is kept to a minimum. The largest change to the topography is at the landform, which steepens and extends the existing slope between the site and the prison. Toward the entrance to the site and the land occupied by the Ministry of the Interior, the existing slope will be gradually flattened, creating a large open space that can be developed as part of the site in the future.
Phase I will encompass the entrance, boardwalk, landform, grove and pond as illustrated. A future Phase II should enlarge and formalize the entrance on the land currently occupied by the Ministry of the Interior. The phase could include a parking lot and visitor center, which could offer more in depth information for visitors coming to the site for the first time.