Bologna Shoah Memorial
- SET Architects
- Piazza memoriale della Shoah, 40129, Bologna, Italy
- jewish Community of Bologna
- Onorato di Manno, Andrea Tanci, Lorenzo Catena
- General Contractor
- Si Produzioni
- Structural Engineering
- Proges Engineering
- Metal working
- Officina Paolo Cocchi
One year after the launch of the international competition for the realization of the Bologna Shoah Memorial,
Rome-based office SET Architects, winner according to the jury presided over by Peter Eisenman, delivers
the Memorial on January 27th, 2016 – to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Built in less than two months, the Memorial is a recognizable landmark of great emotional power. It is
located at the intersection of Via dé Carracci and Ponte Matteotti, a city square encompassed by the newlyinstalled
high-speed train station of Bologna. This area is primed to become the new connective pole of the
city. As such, the monument attracts passers-by, inviting them to reflect on the tragedy of the Holocaust.
The Memorial is made up of two symmetrical cor-ten steel parallelepiped blocks of 10x10m each; the blocks
sit adjacent to one another, perpendicular to the existing walls of the square. Their position converges to
create a path, which begins with a width of 1.60m, drastically narrowing to just 80cm. The path generates
an immediate feeling of oppression.
At the interior of the Memorial, the volumes present a grid of horizontal and vertical metal sheets which
intersect at 90°, giving shape to a series of rectangular empty boxes of 1.80 x 1.25m – these boxes
represent the cells of the dormitories in the concentration camps. The exterior façade of the Memorial
overlooks the city, resembling a blank page – perhaps it is of a history yet to be written? And, along the
perimeter of the cells, slight steel protrusions symbolize feelings of contemporary awareness.
The choice of cor-ten steel is deliberate: it is a material that will naturally rust when exposed to open air. As
the years pass its corrosion will display the vestiges of time, demonstrating that all things have a rich history
behind them. The paving of the path between the two blocks is realized in ballast, basalt stone chippings
typical of the roadbeds. This represents the Judenrampe (“ramp of the Jewish”), which was the name given
to the trek prisoners made from Auschwitz I (Stammlager concentration camp) and Auschwitz II (Birkenau
The empty echoes of footsteps across the stones coupled with the restriction of the passage instills a keen
sense of anguish: in this way the Memorial takes on life and evokes the drama of the memory.
Further, light plays an essential role in the culmination of the monument. During daytime when the square is
lit by sun’s rays, the passage becomes immersed in a dim, contemplative light, allowing the visitor to calmly
reflect. Then at night, strategically placed artificial light illuminates the primary volumes, magnifing the
majesty of the Memorial.
In total, the Memorial, distinguished by its historical ambition, abandons rhetorical and didactic conventions
in order to emphasize the importance of emotions: in this way SET Architects succeeded in designing a
monument that utilizes present sensibility to narrate the past.