- Area: 46 m²
- Year: 2019
Structural Engineer: CORWUM, Lukáš Kramarčík
- Graphic Design: Boris Meluš
- Site Area: 4500 m2
- City: Banská Bystrica
- Country: Slovakia
Text description provided by the architects. The project of the World War I military cemetery in Banska Bystrica reconstruction is understood not only as a chance for reviving a reverent space that commemorates 1385 Fallen from 1914 to 1918 cruelty but it aims to be a space, that presents the process of forgetting and neglecting of what should be remembered. The World War I cemetery of Austro-Hungarian origin was abandoned during the communist regime in the 50ties and brutally overlaid and thus divided by new road infrastructure.
After the fall of Communism in the 90s, the memory of the place was not restored, but rather further eradicated by building a car showroom on its main part with the central original monument. The rest was left to nature to be covered with trees and shrubs to complete the forgetting. Only with the emergence of civil society, did the faded memories gain momentum with the centennial anniversary of the end of the war in 2018 and the municipality started the reconstruction project of the cemetery through an open architectural and landscape competition in 2016.
The project cleansed all the still present burial fields from wild nature and introduced a new natural form of a flower MEADOW in a sense that this type of cultural but still natural landscape would recreate a notion of restituted care but in a delicate way that does not prioritize the accessible burial grounds over the destroyed or overbuilt ones. The traditional image of the field of tombstones on a well-maintained lawn was not possible in this situation.
The Centerpiece of the revitalization project is the MONUMENT. An abstract, formal volume that does not fit into the peripheral context perceived by the cars and pedestrians passing by. It provokes by not fitting. It invites us to explore the situation. It occupies the only space still available between the graves and histories – directly on the boundary between the civil and war cemetery and thus reacts to the forgotten context. But it also creates a new context. Its role is to recall historical events and men of the First World War, as well as to provide an overview of the current state of the cemetery.
The overview, literally from an elevated platform on top of the monument, accessible through an integrated staircase in its bowel, allows you to see all the layers of forgetting and reminding in one image - cemetery, junction, car showroom, 1385 cut out names. The staircase and the platform are the public spaces of the monument open to all visitors 24hours a day. The space under the staircase, inside the monument, oriented from the busy road is opened only once a year on Remembrance Day and serves as a reverent space.
One of the main problems was the situation, not only context-wise but also due to the minimum ground that was available for building. Strips, 5meters wide and 100m long, that followed the original boundary between the two cemeteries, were identified and became the site of the overview/lookout platform. The width and length plus space for pedestrians were parameters for the form of the MONUMENT that became a wall with a staircase and a platform on top. The monumental character was a result of the limits, but it became a strong a potent interpretation during the project.
To even strengthen this sculptural image of the MONUMENT the structure and material were chosen to minimize architectural tectonics. The whole structure is made from 8mm thin atmospheric steel sheets that, were laser cut in the workshop and welded together on-site to act as one structural unit. The ribs, façade, stairs, and floor work as one and nothing can be removed. By creating this one whole it was possible to conceive the monument as a bridge that rests only on two linear foundations.
The laser-cut technology and the chosen materiality became also an integral part of the visual communication of the MONUMENT and all the texts and infographics were cut out or welded into one materiality and thus became an integral part of the monumental body. The chosen material of atmospheric steelworks is also maintenance wise as no finishing is required and the material aging and its reaction to the environment or people's activity becomes its diary in time.