Theory
ZGW 03 - 21 - 2010

Freedom versus oppression has been a common theme through the recent tours of past Soviet and Nazi states. In order to understand the present one must first understand the past, and for these citizens remembering the terrors experienced during occupation serves as a form of social sustainability. There are many forms remembrance can take; music, art, events, etc., but one of the most common and widely recognized is through architecture. Out of the many monuments visited thus far, three distinct variations stand out; the KGB Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, Austria, and the Triumphal Arch in Munich, Germany. The KGB Museum represents a minimal architectural footprint. With the instruments of torture already in place, little had to be added or changed to tell the story. Simply opening the courthouse turned KGB headquarters to the public was sufficient in communicating with the visitors. The added effect of a tour guide directly affected by the actions of the headquarters greatly enhanced the architectural narrative, but the feeling of oppression by way of locked doors and secret chambers alone will make a person appreciative of freedom. On the opposite end of the architectural spectrum is the Holocaust Memorial (top). Unlike the minimally modified KGB museum, the monument was built independently of any existing structure. A person's experience of the place is entirely within the control of the designer. Its nonspecific location also plays differently to the visitor. Unlike the museum which serves as a destination for visitors, the monument is most visited by happenstance of a casual passerby. In this way a person is reminded of the city's past horrors within the routine of the everyday. The last example of the Triumphal Arch represents a combination of the previous two (bottom). The original structure was a monument to the country's past victories, but after being partially destroyed in World War II the city of Munich had to choose how it should be handled. The arch could be either reconstructed to its original character, partially repaired, or left in rubble. The decision to restore it to the original volume but not to the original level of ornament respected both periods of Munich's history. The story of the monument tells of both victory and disaster, a continual reminder to the citizens and visitors of the multiple levels of history of the city.

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