Winning architects announced to design the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre in Kyiv

An expert jury unanimously selected the best architectural design project for the future Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre, to be built on the site of the 1941-1943 atrocity in Kyiv, Ukraine. The winning design was submitted by the Austrian architecture bureau – Querkraft Architekten with the landscape architect Kieran Fraser Landscape Design (Austria). This ground-breaking centre will be the first Holocaust Memorial in Eastern Europe. 

The second and the third-place runners up were Dorte Mandrup A/S (Denmark) with the landscape architect Martha Schwartz (USA) and merz merz (Germany) with the landscape architect TOPOTEK 1 (Germany) respectively. The five finalists that took part in the second and final phase of the architectural competition also included the following bureaus: Richter Musikowski (Germany) with the landscape architects FABULISM (Germany) and Lysann Schmidt (Germany), and BURØ architects (Ukraine) with the landscape architect Ksenia Feofilaktova of “V POLE DESIGN” (Ukraine).

The competition’s goal was to come up with a world-leading design solution that would allow for the creation of a next-generation memorial. The future Holocaust Memorial Centre will become a place of memory, a museum and a platform for research, public dialog and reflection on the tragedy, all combined in one. It will comprise exhibition spaces for core and visiting exhibits, an education and a research centre, a space for public events, and premises for an archive and the museum collection documenting the Holocaust in Ukraine and beyond. The project will complement the distinctive Babyn Yar landscape and the memorial park with an outstanding design and a unique visiting experience.

The concept of the winning project is built around the future centre visitor’s individual perception of the Holocaust. The design solution enables the visitor to physically feel the danger and hopelessness that surrounded the Holocaust victims gunned down at Babyn Yar. A long ramp resembling a ditch or fissure leads to the core exhibition located 20 meters below the ground level. The walls of the ramp rise up around the visitor, ultimately encasing them underground. The journey made by visitors mirrors the path taken by Babyn Yar victims towards their place of their death in the Babyn Yar ravine, whilst also reflecting society’s incessant plunge towards the darkness of violence.

After traveling through the core exhibition, the visitor emerges into a luminous atrium. This space is the Memorial Centre’s “heart”, symbolising the future, which gives hope. Surrounding the atrium are multiple teaching rooms, designed for public talks and dialogue, academic research and larger event spaces. The entire design is built around the idea of contrast between dark and light, despair and hope.

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial team will continue to develop the winning design within a series of workshops with Querkraft Architekten. The complexity of realising the concept will define when the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre will open its doors to the first visitors.

Initially, 165 applications were submitted from 36 countries. Renowned design companies were among the applicants, such as Eisenman Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (US), Zaha Hadid Architects (UK). For example, Eisenman Architects designed the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin. 10 bureaus were selected in the pre-qualification procedure.

The architectural competition to find the eventual design for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre was launched on 19 December 2018. It was organised by German firm phase eins., which had previously run competitions to find designers for the Heaven’s Hundred Memorial and the Museum of the Revolution of Dignity, both in Ukraine.

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre’s competition was held in two phases. This was based on UNESCO standards for architectural competitions and the rules of the International Union of Architects. The jury evaluated the project under the condition of anonymity and along specified criteria.

The architectural competition jury included:

  • Sir David Adjaye, Principal of Adjaye Associates, United Kingdom
  • Janosh Vigh, Director at Janosh Vigh & Partners, Ukraine
  • János Kárász, Founding partner of Auböck + Kárász Landscape Architects, Austria
  • Daniel Libeskind, founder of Studio Daniel Libeskind, US
  • Prof. Wolfgang Lorch, Founding partner of Wandel Lorch Architekten, Germany
  • Prof. Rainer Mahlamäki, Founding partner of Lahdelma & Mahlamäki architects, Finland
  • Oleksandr Svystunov, Chief Architect of Kyiv
  • Kjetil Thorsen, Founding Partner of Snøhetta, Norway
  • Serhii Tselovalnyk, Chief Architect of Tselina Project, Chief Architect of Kyiv, (2010-2015)

The general jurors were:

  • Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kyiv
  • Yana Barinova, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of the Babyn Yar, Holocaust Memorial Centre (BYHMC)
  • Victor Pinchuk, businessman and philanthropist, Founder of EastOne and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation
  • Ronald Lauder, President of World Jewish Congress
  • Dieter Bogner, Founder and CEO of the Museum Designing Company bogner.knoll, Austria
  • Tamara Mazur, ex-Deputy Minister of Culture of Ukraine.

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre (BYHMC) is a non-profit educational organisation aiming at due commemoration of the Babyn Yar tragedy victims through building an innovative memorial centre in Kyiv and promoting the humanising of mankind through the preservation and exploration of the memory of the Holocaust. The future Centre will be located next to the site of the tragic events in the ravine of Babyn Yar in 1941-1943. Its purpose is to remind that in two years of occupation of Kyiv, the Nazis executed here 70,000 to 10, 000 people; 33,771 Jews were murdered in Babyn Yar on September 29-30, 1941 alone. This is one of the most massive massacres of World War 2.