A renewed space for the memorial site
The Camp of Fossoli bears the important material testimony of an architectural structure which was created as a prison and deportation camp during the Second World War. The complex was transformed into a residential settlement in the following two decades, and finally abandoned, leaving the ruins as evidence of its past. These give to the site the fragmented appearance we see today.
The conceptual idea at the base of the proposal for the “New Visitor Center for the Fossoli Camp” stems from this assumption, realizing a project that does not designs simple volumes within this composition, but recalls and reinterprets the theme of the barracks collapsing.
The access to the main visitor space is possible through a narrow sloping path. The comprehension of the site and its history becomes the fundamental first step that comes before the actual visit. This allows a deeper and more meaningful experience for the visitor. The didactic role of the center consists in a deeper understanding of the site and a truly appreciation for what is left.
Our proposal consists of the demolition of the existing reconstructed barrack in order to build a new structure, which is partially sunk underground. This new architecture is a more suitable space for the cultural and educational purposes of the Camp, both functionally and aesthetically. Rethinking the theme of the existing shack, the proposal overturns the internal distribution, creating an open space, so that the flow generated by visitors and users is fluid and continuous. It was therefore maintained the area of the pre-existing barracks, eliminating any internal obstacle.
Design is based on a sequence of repeated portals, modular elements with a specific rhythm, according to the original external walls and windows of the pre-existing barracks. This concept generates a simple but fragmented architecture, where walls become the opaque structure and windows. The internal space of the barracks becomes a single large “nave”, which is excavated in the ground between barracks. This new view on the Camp gives a new perception and the identity of a true memorial of the past. The architecture preserves its distinction from the existing ruins, while integrating with them. This project becomes a catalyst for the discovery and understanding of the Camp, as well as a contemporary visitor center and a meeting point for the local community. The New Visitor Center pavilion will be recognizable from outside the Camp during day, and highly visible during night, when the entire building becomes a lighting lantern. Light flows from the windows in every direction, generating evocative shadows, and making the architecture truly alive.