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Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)

Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)

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IDEA Exhibition: Thinking the Future of Auschwitz

By sciarcnews
Oct 17, '14 1:17 PM EST
An aerial view of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
An aerial view of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

SCI-Arc is pleased to present IDEA’s Thinking the Future of Auschwitz, an architectural proposal for the future of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland. The exhibition opens Monday, November 3 at the SCI-Arc Library, with an opening discussion featuring Russell Thomsen of IDEA and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss. Exhibition will remain on view through November 30.

While the original concentration camp and Polish State Museum at Auschwitz maintain their status as a narrated, didactic experience, this proposal transforms the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau into a Tel Olam.

Originally cited in Deuteronomy, a Tel Olam marks a place of unspeakable evil, blotting out and rendering it inaccessible. Translated as a perpetual heap—in contemporary terms, a machinic field—it produces a traumatic figure, steadfastly delimiting a perimeter. Proper to its unutterable status, Birkenau becomes perpetually indeterminate, generating a probing, hermeneutic experience without immediate answers, withholding solace and defying convenient philosophical closure.

While the project is unique to Auschwitz, it tests architecture’s own particular agency in the twenty-first century and contributes significantly to an expanded discourse on the conventions of catastrophe.