2014

Płaszów, Krakow

Design/Strategy/Intervention

The palimpsestuous nature of Plazsow is what gives it its particular importance. Its historical significance linked to its landscape dates back to medieval times with the creation of Krakus Mound.  However, the facet that provides most design inspiration in this site is Plaszows’ role in the Second World War and the manner in which the occupying Germans decided to use it. Due to the sites proximity to two quarries, the Third Reich installed a forced labour camp at Plaszow. It is also argued that another reason the Nazis chose Plaszow as the site for a camp was due to the location of nearby Jewish cemeteries. During the Nazi occupation, it is estimated that in total, 125,000 people were interned at Plaszow with upwards of 10,000 people perishing there. Many of these victims were placed in mass graves, later to be dug up and burned in a last ditch attempt by the Nazis to cover up the genocide. This meant that ash produced by burning these bodies scattered all over the nearby area and makes the whole camp site a form of unofficial burial ground. 

 

The paradox now lies with how the site is used today. As the Nazis destroyed most of the evidence of the camps existence, the area now has very few visual reminders or traces of the atrocities that happened there. Vegetation now masks most of the topographical traces and since the end of the war, the area has been allowed to grow wild. Because of this lack of human intervention the site is actually now very naturally beautiful and has a highly diverse ecosystem within in. Locals now come to walk their dogs, go for a run, have a picnic and all the other normal activities you would expect in a peri-urban park. However, I believe that as long as the site continues like this, the further from memory the atrocities become. Thus, from the site analysis and strategic planning of the project it was clear early on that I wanted to focus on allowing the site to continue providing a function as a large scale green space in Krakow, linking new developing urban areas whilst importantly emphasising the historical context of the site through design interventions. Through the following pages I hope to illustrate my numerous proposals for the area. 

 

 

Places are constantly in a state of transformation, over time they experience incessant evolution of their features which form their history and mark their future. They are subjected to unpredictable behaviour which causes them disturbance. These disturbances may manifest as relatively discreet moments in time but act to disrupt ecosystems, communities or population structure, changing the physical environment. These disruptions stunt various ecological and social cycles, forcing them to react, leaving physical traces and imprints in memory.

 

 

I use contrast and play with thresholds within my design in order to re-active the site. I aim to force the visitor to make decisions about how he moves and uses the space. Although always given freedom, I want the user to be made to think about why a space takes the form that it does and therefor reflect on its connection with the site and the surrounding landscape. Within the camp I have designed (through studies shown below) areas which abstractly illustrate the previous forms within the former camp and indicate its scale. These forms are allowed to morph symbiotically with the landscape and are not subjected to the heavy hand of man. I took the dictum “Toxicity flows, transcending property lines” (B.Adam) and used it to inspire my design. With a site of such ‘toxicity’, I want to let freedom flow (in the form of nature and vegetation) and let it transcend any of the previous boundary lines created within the former camp.