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Memorial Complex Jasenovac

Jasenovac, Croatia
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The Jasenovac Monument is devoted to the victims of the Ustasha genocide during World War II. It serves as a reminder of the atrocities perpetrated in the Jasenovac concentration camp. Designed by Bogdan Bogdanovic and unveiled in 1966. Jasenovac was the largest concentration camp on Yugoslav soil. It was established in 1941 by the fascist Independent State of Croatia. More than 80,000 of its victims have been identified, chiefly Serbs but also Jews, Roma, and others, even Croats who opposed the regime - the total number of victims is believed to exceed 100,000. The memorial complex is a park designed according to the principles of land art, where the visitors' everyday lives intersect with the memory of the victims. In the landscape by the river Sava, the architect gently sited a path which leads from the entrance along the embankment and rises between two small lakes to arrive at the monumental, 24m tall concrete blossom. The former barracks complexes are marked by shallow round earth craters. The brutalist concrete blossom growing from the grass is contrasted against the subtly designed landscape. The symbolic significance of the landscape is the "topography of terror" while the blossom within it represents hope, even a rebirth. Live triumphs over death.

Bogdanovic: >> In all my projects, and especially at Jasenovac, the idea never developed in a linear fashion. I always ran in circles. In this case, I designed an entire world of flowers. At first, there were many; later I condensed them all into one. I analysed different flowers, their types, their interior mechanics. Today that would have been easier to do with a computer, but perhaps the computer would make it too easy. As you go around the flower, you experience three alternating elevations. There is a mathematical formula to the shape. A sculptor would have made it differently: sculptors work with their hands, whereas here everything was drawn, calculated, geometrically resolved. When people ask what the difference is between an architectural and a sculptural memorial, my answer is that an architectural memorial can be described mathematically. Everything you see is a part of a cone or a sphere. Nevertheless, it is a very complex shape, so the formwork was a huge problem. An old engineer advised me to invite traditional shipbuilders from Dalmatia for the job. That was crucial.

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ziggurat, November 30th, 2020
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