It is extremely meaningful to have been able to design and realise this monument with an incredible team,” said architect Daniel Libeskind. Studio Libeskind was selected to design the project in an international competition between top architecture firms from all around the world.
The Canadian National Holocaust Monument was opened to the public in the early days of October this year to honour the “millions of innocent men, women, and children who were murdered under the Nazi regime and to recognise the survivors who were able to make Canada their home”.
The monument, made out of casted concrete, conjures up the form of the 6-pointed star of David. The intention was to deconstruct the star and create an experiential environment that is laced with symbolism throughout. The architects explain that “the star remains the visual symbol of the Holocaust – a symbol that millions of Jews were forced to wear by the Nazi’s to identify them as Jews, exclude them from humanity and mark them for extermination.” It is then evident that the triangular spaces are a representation of the badges that the Nazi’s and their collaborators used to label different prisoners for murder.
There are two distinctive ground planes that establish symbolic and circular paths around and through the structure. The first is an ascending plane that “points to the future” and the second is a descending plane that leads towards more contemplative interior spaces. There are specific program pieces that have been integrated within six concrete triangles. This includes an educational interpretation space that describes the history and relationship between Canada and the Holocaust, three individual spaces for contemplation and reflection, a central congregating space, as well as a cathedral-like void that contains the “Flame of Remembrance”.
Additionally, murals by Edward Burtynsky are featured on the walls of each triangular face. This transports visitors to the emotive landscapes of the Holocaust sites. In the direction of the Parliament Buildings, the “Stair of Hope” takes visitors directly from the central gathering space towards the plaza on the upper levels.
Encircling the structure is a rocky landscape that permeated with coniferous trees (a tree which bears cones and needle-like like leaves) that will gradually mature as the monument ages. This acts as a beautiful reference and representation of the passing of time and the contribution of Canadian survivors in the modern-day society.
Daniel Libeskind also added, “This monument not only creates a very important public space for the remembrance of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, but it also serves as a constant reminder that today’s world is threatened by anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry. Canada has upheld the fundamental democratic values of people regardless of race, class or creed, and this national monument is the expression of those principles and of the future.”