“The Road” is an unbuilt project by Polish architect Oskar Nikolai Hansen (team leader) with Zofia Hansen, Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, Edmund Kupiecki, Julian Pałka and Lechosław Rosiński. The project is an entry for an international competition and an exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in 1958. The brief was to design a monument to the victims on the site of the death camp. The proposal by Hansen’s team refuses a sculptural approach and overall the notion of monument in itself and considers the whole site as a memorial. A black paved road one kilometer long and 70 metres wide cuts diagonally through the former camp while the main gate which leads to it is kept shut. All elements met by the road would be preserved, while all the rest, the chimneys, the barracks, the railway ramp, would have been left untouched and exposed to the effects of time, decaying and being overgrown by plants. People would have come to perform individual commemorative actions using the road as a background. In a sense, “The road”, with its ability to show the petrified time of a tragedy, reminds Gibellina’s Cretto by Alberto Burri.
The process occurring off the road would play the role of a biological clock. Trees grew there; we saw roe deer and bucks passing through. We wanted to preserve the elements on the road, preserving this all-too-human experience for others, just like the lava preserved Pompeii. ‘The Road’ monument is a search for continuity. It starts with life, passes through death, and then returns to another life. Life and death define one other within it. Oskar Hansen
The project is connected to Hansen’s lifelong research for an “Open Form“, a space shaped by its inhabitant and their activities.
All images via Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
Photos © César Delgado Martìn