10.05.2019  12:00

Two graduates from Politecnico di Milano win Archiprix International 2019

An ethical vision of architecture to preserve the memory and the documentary value of the Warsaw Ghetto

Sara Pellegrini and Domenico Spagnolo, two graduates from the School of Architecture Urban Planning Construction Engineering of Politecnico di Milano, have won an Archiprix International / Hunter Douglas Award 2019 with the project called “Waliców, fortress of memory. Museum of the present between warsaw’s ghetto ruins”. Their tutors were professors Guido Morpurgo and Annalisa de Curtis of the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies.

The project was selected amongst 321 graduation projects designed by 407 young architects, landscape architects and urban designers, submitted for the Archiprix International Chile 2019. An international jury selected the 7 winning projects, which have in common the ability to combine social, political and contextual elements with innovative programmes, a critical engagement with the discourse and restraint in the design process.

In the central area of Warsaw, a few buildings and fragments of the Jewish Ghetto, established by the Nazis during the occupation of Poland, survive. These are the last shreds of the 1943-1944 uprisings, evidences of resistance to annihilation that are at risk of being permanently removed both from the city and from the European collective consciousness because of the continuous urban transformations underway. The remains of Warsaw, which was systematically destroyed by the Nazis and subsequently rebuilt other-than-self, represent documentary material for the development of the present, which is aware of its past, built on communication and civil coexistence. It is a heritage that needs to be preserved through a responsible architectural project.

This project proposes the rehabilitation and critical integration of a core of three buildings from the early twentieth century that have survived devastation. The three buildings, located in Ulica Waliców, along with the free areas left over by years of war destruction, eloquently focus the dimension of memory and the documentary depth of Warsaw Ghetto’s history.

Therefore, redesigning this complex set of “invisible” fragments which belong to an old Warsaw aims not only to preserve it, but also to regenerate this memorable place for the realization of an area of experience and research through the plastic and performative arts, as well as a place of documentation and debate on past urban division and on those that now arise in European cities.

The design programme is based on a physical and conceptual excavation in the foundations of the city, activating a form of “critical archaeology” that strengthens the identity of the places of memory and their deep meanings, suggesting an innovative museum structure: a “museum of the present” activated by the architecture of ethical responsibility.

The jury awarded our graduates’ project because it was not a nostalgic memorial. On the contrary, the project is programmed for the future, and it outlines the clear responsibility of architecture. It is an intellectually mature project that resonates with the now. Since what happened then could happen again today or tomorrow, the designers adopt a very clear position on ethics and urban form in the past and in the future.