The Presence of absence

The Presence of absence
The Presence of absence
The Presence of absence
The Presence of absence

Archilea Renato Pucci architetto with Maria Gonzales, Sandro Cacciatore


The historian Y. H. Yerushalmi has emphasized how the Jews have given meaning to history by
learning first to recognize it and then to understand it. Therefore, according to Yerushalmi, the effort
to keep the memory alive is a key component of the Hebrew concept of life, and means that they
will never lose their identity so long as they manage to preserve the memory of their past. For the
project of the Memorial, the objectives of the competition require that this principle should refer to
the whole identity of the human condition, considering that the human e/(ho)rror has been
perpetrated toward all forms of diversity, rationalized by the concepts of standardization and human
selection rather than by giving positive meaning to difference.
Generally, every human being who has had experience of pain – the loss of a loved one, for
example – knows that, with time, pain tends to change in memory. Memory slowly loses its strength
and sharpness; then fades into the shadows of oblivion. It’s as if, as time heals the wounds engraved
in the soul, you struggle to recall and define the exact connotations of the memory image of a
painful event.
Our proposal is an attempt to counter this mechanism of decay of memory and to incorporate and
synthesize the concepts and objectives of the competition by presenting the catastrophe suffered by
the Jewish people as a common factor of the broader human condition. Our vision is to emphasize
the gap between the two existing walls, highlighting the lack, the absence, of that part of the wall,
underlining its contours. Making it appear again, giving presence precisely to its absence.
Embodying the harshness of the damage done, through the use of contrasting material (cor-ten
Perceptually, the two walls that contain ventilation towers can be read as a single wall that lacks an
important center piece. The symbolism of the missing piece is immediate and represents the victims
of the Holocaust. The passer-by will perceive from afar the feeling of emptiness, the absence of the
missing part; highlighted and amplified through the strong composition evoked by the contour steel.
The composition will be completed by 18 elements (the number that symbolizes life, according to
Jewish tradition) that define the urban space of the square – an archipelago of 9 cubic-benches and 9
flower beds. The isolated benches – offering the passer-by the chance to pause and reflect in what is
a place of passage – symbolize the loneliness of the individual in the empowerment of memory,
which can be found in union with others who live in the same condition of solitude. Meanwhile, the
presence of flower beds adjacent to the benches, flowering at different times and in a myriad of
colors, will serve to depict life in all its diversity of expression and present a message of hope and
positivity, able to flourish even in the face of the most brutal violence.