Monument Majer - World War I Military Cemetery Restoration

The WW1 cemetery was abandoned, divided, partially destroyed, and forgotten. The reconstruction provides insight into notion of forgetting and reminding via an overview from the “MONUMENT”. One object - 2.4m wide, 19.2m long and 8m high - welded from 8 mm thin steel plates into a fragile structural whole.

The project of the World War I military cemetery in Banska Bystrica reconstruction is understood not only as a chance for reviving a reverent space that commemorates the 1385 Fallen from 1914-1918 cruelty but it aims to be a space, that presents the process of forgetting and neglecting of what should be remembered.

The World War I cemetery of Austro-Hungarian origin was abandoned during communist regime in the 50ties and brutally overlaid and thus divided by new road infrastructure. After the fall of Communism in the 90ties the memory of the place was not restored, but rather further eradicated by building a car showroom on its main part with central original monument. The rest was left to nature to be covered with trees and shrubs to complete the forgetting. Only with emerging of civil society the faded memories gained momentum with the centennial anniversary of the end of the war in the 2018 and the municipality started the reconstruction project of the cemetery by an open architectural and landscape competition in the 2016.
The project cleansed all the still present burial fields from wild nature and introduced a new natural form of a flower MEADOW in a sense that this type of cultural but still natural landscape would recreate a notion of restituted care but in a delicate way that does not prioritize the accessible burial grounds over the destroyed or overbuilt ones. Traditional image of field of tombstones on well-maintained lawn was not possible at this situation.

The Centerpiece of the revitalization project is the MONUMENT. Abstract, formal volume that does not fit in to the peripheral context perceived by the cars and pedestrians passing by. It provokes by not fitting. It invites to explore the situation. It occupies the only space still available between the graves and histories – directly on the boundary between the civil and war cemetery and thus reacts on the forgotten context. But it also creates new context. Its role is to recall historical events and men of the First World War, as well as to provide an overview of current state of the cemetery. The overview, literally from an elevated platform on top of the monument, accessible through an integrated staircase in its bowel, allows you to see all the layers of forgetting and reminding in one image - cemetery, junction, car showroom, 1385 cut out names. The staircase and the platform are the public spaces of the monument open to all the visitors 24hours a day. The space under the staircase, inside the monument, oriented form the busy road is opened only once a year on Remembrance Day and serves as a reverent space.

One of the main problems was the situation, not only context wise, but also due to the minimum ground that was available for building. Strip, 5meters wide and 100m long, that followed the original boundary between the two cemeteries, was identified and became the site of the overview/lookout platform. The width and length plus space for pedestrians were parameters for the form of the MONUMENT that became a wall with a staircase and a platform on top. The monumental character was a result of the limits, but it became a strong a potent interpretation during the project.

To even strengthen this sculptural image of the MONUMENT the structure and material were chosen to minimize architectural tectonics. The whole structure is made from 8mm thin atmospheric steel sheets that, were laser cut in the workshop and the welded together on site to act as one structural unit. The ribs, façade, stairs, floor work as one and nothing can be removed. By creating this one whole it was possible to conceive the monument as a bridge that rests only on two linear foundations.
The laser cut technology and the chosen materiality became also integral part of the visual communication of the MONUMENT and all the texts and infographics were cut out or welded into the one materiality and thus became integral part of the monumental body. The chosen material of atmospheric steel works also maintenance wise as no finishing is required and the material aging and its reaction to environment or people activity becomes its diary in time.