A Space for Remembrance

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The Monument for the ”Righteous Gentiles” is planned for the University Complex

  • It renders homage to those who protected thousands of Jews during the Holocaust
  • The work will be comprised of ceramic bricks and concrete
  • Interesting use of water, light and earth

A monument rendering homage to the 15,670 non-Jews of different nationalities (the ”Righteous Gentiles”) who, risking their lives and loss of freedom, saved hundreds of thousands of Jews form extermination, will be constructed at the University Complex. The work possesses high poetic content and was planned by architects Claudio Vekstein and Nora Vitorgan Maltz (with the assistance of architects Ariel Jacubovich, Frank Arnorld, Santiago Bozzola, Malca Mizrahi, Pablo Peirano and Atilio Pentimalli, the last mentioned being in charge of scale model publication), and was requested by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (in agreement with the municipality of the City of Buenos Aires), through Casa Argentina en Jerusalem, a non-governmental organization that works in favor of inter-religious dialogue, founded in 1966 by Monsignor Ernesto Segura, among others, in order to build closer ties among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, believers and Agnostics. (http://www.casa-argentina.org.ar).

At the present time, the project is in its final planning phase and it is calculated that in one year’s time, construction will begin. Once finished, it will be the only monument dedicated to the Righteous Gentiles in the world.

It will be situated on a triangular plot of land at the mouth of the river Vega, bordered on two sides by the waters of the De la Plata river, the third side by the land of the future Coastal Walkway of the Joint Park of Remembrance (where the monuments to the Victims of State Terrorism, the Monument to Peace and the Monument to Co-existence will be put up). The work will be arranged so that it suggests distance and suggestive places through the arrangement of the forms, materials and light. From the entrance of the monument one can take various paths, which could serve as a metaphor for everyone’s commitment to the essence of the piece: an existent footbridge skids the monument on a tangent and connects with the Coastal Walkway, or a path formed by the soft embankment of earth forming steps until they reach the highest point of the entire structure, a suspended concrete platform (pointed towards Jerusalem), that serves as a look out point. A ramp then connects to a more restricted and semi-buried chapel (named ”Precinct of the Righteous”), which almost finds itself in the shadows and is vacant, a space for true self-communion.

This space is wide and not very elevated at its entrance and becomes narrow and high with a pronounced slope towards its interior. A small break in the ceiling (composed of successive brick arches) allows a thin ray of light to enter, which, together with the river (when it rises), bathes the concrete mural on which one can read the 15,670 engraved names.

A low reinforced concrete wall that as it increases in size, becomes one of the fundamental pieces of the project, divides the side footbridge and the Footpath of the Righteous.

To Walk Among the Righteous

Past the first footbridge, under the concrete platform, one finds an open-air ecumenical chapel in front of the river, with cement benches and a holding capacity for 200 people, where meetings and ceremonies can take place. Continuing on that path, however, one will come to a beach composed of stones that extends its low walls into the depths of the river.

On the other hand, the 15,670 bricks of the embankments will be large (40 cm in length, specially baked to obtain different color tones in order to emphasize individuality). The continuation of the embankments onto the grassless ground will be covered with tiny stones, resting on a base of clay.

”Together with Nora we have built a series of relationships in order to symbolize the unity between the religions”, says Vekstein, ”and the project in front of the river suggested the theme of the brick steps that form a series of horizons that, before reaching the platform, transform into Catalonian arches. Amancio Williams in his Pavilion for Bunge & Born or in his other works in front of the river, creates a projection where umbrellas or other vertical forms contrasts the horizon; we in turn, have developed a project based on horizon, river, and earth, basically with two elements: the concrete platform and the earth in its various states, emphasizing the horizontal lines.”

The architects believe that, ”the work looks to situate itself alongside the river, with its distinctive character, to feed off its inexhaustible force, its immanent, stirring personality of a seemingly solid tranquility, of a slow yet secure and definitive motion; that gives one the feeling of being on the border, of putting on the edge the real danger of oneself against the danger of the other… and all that appears to be the texture of the water is nothing more than the river’s own text: the text of remembrance”.

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