Haunting memorial commemorates Polish victims of WWII atrocities

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Located in Michniów, southern Poland, the project was first unveiled back in 2009 with a winning competition bid(Credit: Nizio Design International)

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It's difficult for architects to reflect tragedy respectfully while remaining compelling, especially with a subject as emotionally charged as the Second World War. But the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages gets the balance right. Designed by Poland's Nizio Design International, the project commemorates Polish victims of WWII.

Located in Michniów, southern Poland, the design for the Martyrdom of Polish Villages was the subject of a winning architectural competition entry back in 2009. It was commissioned by the Kielce Region Countryside Museum to commemorate all the Polish rural communities that were persecuted during German occupation.

While the project includes extensive landscaping, including paths to a mass grave, the memorial itself comprises a footprint of over 16,200 sq m (174,375 sq ft) and is distinguished by 11 large house-shaped volumes which begin as fully-formed and degrade into a skeletal framework, silently telling the story of the destruction of Michniów.

"The building has a characteristic segmented structure," explains Nizio Design International. "Its tissue is cut across by cracks that divide the architectural form into closed and open parts. This form is the resultant of the sculptural inspirations and thinking of the architecture's consistency with the historical narrative. Also, it was informed by the need to adjust the building to the shape of its site featuring 10-15 percent slope of the ground."

Inside, visitors will move through a series of multimedia exhibitions featuring screens, projectors and touch panels. The exhibited subjects include the Polish resistance movement, the killing of Polish civilians and the deportation and forced labor of others. The final exhibits are partly open to the elements and detail the Nazi perpetrators of the crimes themselves, before the mausoleum breaks up completely and disappears.

Construction of the project is currently in its fifth phase and it is due to open in late 2016/early 2017.

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