The concept of Dorte Mandrup’s proposal is a minimal yet forceful gesture. The archi- tectural concept is an abstraction of the historical ravine and history, that creates a space for reflection, mourning and education. The proposal came in second in the com- petition.
A city records the past in different ways. Stories and memories are passed down through generations, retained within the layers of the urban fabric. Relics and monuments help us recall decisive points in history, informing a city’s collective identity. Under the buried layers of the Babyn Yar Ravine lives a memory of one of the most tragic moments in history: the massacre of 33.000 Jews in 1941. By revealing this lost landscape, the stories of the Babyn Yar victims and their loved ones are brought to light. Dorte Mandrup wish to mark both the absence and the presence of the landscape and the many who lost their lives.
Unearthing the ravine and a dark history
The concept of Dorte Mandrup’s proposal is a minimal yet forceful gesture. A gash created within the earth em- bodies two key themes. The first is a response to the global tragedy of the Holocaust, the second is an ele- ment deeply tied to the Babyn Yar site and its disastrous history.
The ravine witnessed the mass murder of the city’s peo- ple before it was filled with bodies and changed from a natural topography to a mass grave.
Dorte Mandrup’s proposal is an abstraction of this his- torical ravine, which tries to unearth its depth, geology, and history as a contemplative space. A gravesite for the people of Kyiv to return to learn of this tragedy and un- earth family history. To commemorate but also move for- ward. A place for both reflection and education.
Connecting and Circulating
Dorte Mandrup’s architectural concept is an abstraction of the historical ravine that used to exist on the site. The ravine walls clad in Ukrainian Limestone, folds through the site and cul- minates as the sides widens and folds up a surface as if a giant force had hit the soil. The ra- vine is flaking in layers underneath the upfolded surface, evoking the weight of the earth that is displaced. Shadows are cast within this space with a high contrast between dark and light. The descent into the ravine will reduce the sound of the city and the noise of the nearby streets to create a quiet and contemplative space. At the end of the ravine, the visitor gets a slight glimpse of the space opening, the walls becoming habitable, flaking layers of slabs is edging a large open space, the ravine floor is covered with water. From here to visitor contin- ues 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 balco- nies. Looking up, the underside of the slabs clad in wood reveal a warm hue. The balco- nies create open plazas shifting above each other, creating visual contact between each floor. The balconies are used as communication, informal gathering, meeting and work spaces. Creating an open, inviting and democratic environment in the learning and dia- logue center, there must be open informal spaces where visitors and collaborators can meet and share knowledge. Dorte Mandrup has created a mixture of open spaces and separate offices, ensuring as much transparency as possible.
A brighter future
Exiting the post-event area, 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, becoming a place where an allusion to the heavens above meets with the graves below, providing a fitting moment for respecting the lost. When mov- ing towards the water’s surface the visitor will come upon etched individual stones on the opposite ravine wall.
These etched stones contain the names of the limited number of people who were iden- tified as victims at Babyn Yar. These 3,000 stones, for named victims, are dispersed throughout a wall of 67,000 voids. These voids represent those who were not identified and wait for a name to be inscribed on their surfaces.
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 im- portance of democracy and the fragility of humanity. The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center will balance between remembrance, honor, education, and a look toward the future that is imperative to the site.