In 2011 a unique public initiative was formed. Its aim was to gradually revitalize and transform the neglected neologic synagogue, designed by Peter Behrens, into a cultural centre. Based on volunteering, crowdfunding, private sponsorship and financial grants it became an unprecedent example of civic activism in Slovakia. The main ambition was to achieve a dialectic relationship between the exceptional heritage and its new contents.
The synagogue was built in years 1929 – 1931. Numerous later changes in the use of the synagogue have had a strong influence on the condition of the building. During the WWII it was used as storage space, later it was turned into a theatre, than it was used as an auditorium for the University of Žilina and afterwards it served as a cinema. While the exterior of the building remained relatively preserved, the interior of the synagogue has been fundamentally altered. It is precisely the ability of absorbing all these changes without a substantial damage on the synagogue that allowed it to survive. It is what makes it so remarkable for us.
We follow the idea of a monument in constant flux by refusing to add any permanent new architectural elements to structure the space. Instead, we propose a seasonal exhibition architecture to host different shows and diverse additional programmes of the new cultural institution. The generous central space of the building is simply divided horizontally into two chromatically different parts becoming a “half-white” gallery. The lower half provides a neutral background for new contents while the upper half presents the synagogue itself. The exhibition architecture changes seasonally, each time radically altering the exhibition space.