Holocaust architecture evidence to be showcased at prestigious Venice Biennale

Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Auschwitz exhibit, focusing on a forensic analysis of the crematoria produced by University of Waterloo professors and students, will be featured at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.

The Evidence Room, created by Waterloo School of Architecture professors Anne Bordeleau, Donald McKay, Robert Jan van Pelt, and colleague Sascha Hastings, along with a team of Waterloo students, will be on display in the Central Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Italy from May 28 to November 27, 2016.

Front Sectional Elevation of The Evidence RoomFront Sectional Elevation of The Evidence Room (Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, Donald McKay, Michael Nugent, Nicole Ratajczak, Alexandru Vilcu)

Part of a larger group exhibition curated by la Biennale’s Artistic Director, Alejandro Aravena entitled Reporting From the Front, the Evidence Room consists of life-sized replicas and casts of key pieces of architectural evidence of the Holocaust. The project includes a gas column, gas door, wall section with gas-tight hatch, blueprints, architects’ letters, contractors’ bills and photographs.

Professor van Pelt is one of the world's leading experts on Auschwitz. In 2000, he successfully helped defend American historian Deborah Lipstadt in a civil libel suit brought against her and her publisher by David Irving, a British author who has denied the Holocaust took place. Substantial parts of van Pelt’s testimony formed the basis for his book The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial published in 2002.

“At the Waterloo School of Architecture we believe that to understand the discipline you must explore the best and the worst spaces a fellow practitioner has ever created,” said van Pelt, highly regarded for his extensive research into Holocaust architecture.  “This exhibit has immersed Waterloo Coop students and research assistants in the realities of a loathsome and obscene, architect-designed space. It is a profound experience for all of us and, in design terms, a radical, unprecedented investigation into the possibility to represent something unrepresentable: the architectural evidence of a factory of death.”

Waterloo Architecture Students Alexandru Vilcu, Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, and Piper Bernbaum Review the Auschwitz Crematorium Evidence Plans with Waterloo Architecture Professor and The Evidence Room Co-Principal Robert Jan van Pelt (photo Fred Hunsberger)Waterloo Architecture Students Alexandru Vilcu, Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, and Piper Bernbaum Review the Auschwitz Crematorium Evidence Plans with Waterloo Architecture Professor and The Evidence Room Co-Principal Robert Jan van Pelt (photo Fred Hunsberger)

Work by other University of Waterloo faculty members and students has been prominently featured in past years at the Venice Biennale, the world’s largest and most famous architecture exhibition.

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