Francesca Girolami, Elisa Novati, Elia Pogliana • The Value of the Form in the Present.

In Warsaw, at Ulica Waliców, a “real-time” memorial


If it is on the bodies that the consequences of the tragedies are manifested, the fragment of Ulica Waliców that survived the destruction of the city of Warsaw is the bearer of a story that seems to speak the unspeakable. A story that is difficult to tell and accept and that institutions very often try to hide through standardized and pseudo seductive forms that the avant-garde city requires. The role of the museum takes on a strategic value, overcoming the great challenge of connecting the past, present and future and becoming a place of participation and reconciliation.

Today Warsaw is made up of a thousand faces, a thousand readings and a thousand writings. The air is heavy, its history unspeakable. The squares appear infinite, sometimes scattered and, above all, empty. A controversial capital of Eastern Europe that manifests its peculiarities from the very first approach, reflecting the complex and disarming theme of the boundless construction of the contemporary city.

It is sufficient to walk around the city to perceive a generic sense of estrangement that hovers indiscriminately in the large avenues as in the secondary streets, up to the area of the ex-ghetto. The annoyingly uneven ground seems to hide an intrusive historical reality that seeks to emerge, an unresolved conflict that the city seems to conceal with difficulty.

If along the streets this remains just a feeling, it is in the public space, where the city reveals itself, that it becomes tension. The buildings are immersed in an interstitial void, a no man's land that, in its dilations, puts the ideal human measure to the test, between sudden changes of scale and scenes from different eras that do not seem to dialogue at all.

This thesis moves with the precise intent to reveal the profound structure of this city. Through an unprecedented and morphological reading of public spaces, the history of the capital is retraced, starting from the moment of its division with the creation of the ghetto in 1939, up to the most recent outcomes. The phenomenon of division ignites the comparison with cities of different history but with common urban facts, resulting from the division.

Warsaw thus becomes an emblematic case of the contemporary urban project, in the proposal for a memorial in one of the most significant places in the city, where all forms of division seem to take place. The past thus becomes an instrument for understanding and building a present conscious of its history and with a careful look at the fast dynamics of the growing city.

At the basis of all this, a formal necessity: an alternative response that overcomes the amorphous and indifferent development of today's Warsaw through the expressive power of an architecture that takes charge of the present and where all the forms of the division investigated seem to take place.

The aim of this thesis is the project of those same alienating forms so that they return to being transformative and, above all, present acts. A border, a fragment can be regenerated in a new form, not nostalgic but critical and to reposition it in a flow of forms, ideas, uses, space and expressiveness.

A landscape compromised by millennial struggles, like that of Jerusalem, can become a moving scenario and it is precisely starting from this concept that the memorial project moves. It is not enough to make urban and historical complexities present; our goal has been to make these dynamic forms immersed in the real time.

Real time is a sublimation of the present, it is living the present in a dynamic and non-static way, made of both contemplation and experience. The role of architecture is to regenerate these forms of division into possibilities and transform the passive present of them into a real time condition.


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Images of the project