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Ewa Pokrzywa - "Return of the Sacred. The Jewish Cultural Center in Sokolow Malopolski".

19 of April '23
Technical data
Type: master's thesis
Year of defense: 2022

Ewa Pokrzywa

Wydział Architektury Politechniki Krakowskiej

Dr. Jolanta Sroczynska prof. PK

Work submitted for the competition
"Best Diploma Architecture".

The subject of the diploma is the Jewish Cultural Center, which was proposed in Sokolow Malopolski - the author's hometown. The thesis presents the problem of the destruction of the 17th-century Jewish cemetery, on the site of which in the 1960s a fuel depot was arranged. The only sign of the presence of Jewish culture on this plot of land is an ohel, which shares its space with a freight scale. This cemetery was destroyed by the Germans during World War II, but twenty years after the war no one protested when warehouse buildings were erected on the graves of Jews. Restoring the memory of a place and culture so important to the history of the city, which has been completely absorbed by modernity, is not easy.

stan istniejący i kształtowanie formy architektonicznej

existing condition and shaping of architectural form

© Ewa Pokrzywa

It was decided to demolish all the depot buildings in order to locate two pavilions in place of their foundations. The rest of the plot was turned into a memorial garden, with walking paths designed in the geometric rhythm of the former grave quarters. The site is intended to serve not only as a memorial to those once buried here, but also as a forum for the city's culture still drawing on its Jewish roots. An interesting treatment of the undulating surface of the grassy quarters hints at the real history of the site, which symbolically lifts the surface, tentatively peeking out from under the ground.



© Ewa Pokrzywa

The Center's pavilion itself is extremely simple, minimalist in its expression. A separate part, standing in line with the rest of the building, is a kind of sarcophagus, inaccessible from street level, where the symbolic new sacrum of the place is exposed underground - a tombstone founded in 1995 by Canadian descendants of Sokolow Jews. The slab, moved underground, will be displayed on a glass platform in a dark room of the symbolic tomb, on the walls of which are inscribed the names of those who rested here. This mausoleum is accessible only from the main part of the Center's building and is a unique but very powerful form of commemoration of the past. The main part of the Center consists of a multifunctional hall, an exhibition area and a commercial area. Thus, it primarily serves the contemporary culture developed in the city, thus the remembrance of the past has been linked to dreams about the future. Thanks to the proposal of a simple compositional layout, a large space was obtained, which can be shaped in multiple ways, and the location of the necessary accompanying functions in the middle, ground-floor segments brings order and meets the functional requirements.

drewniany pawilon

wooden pavilion

© Ewa Pokrzywa

The materials selected, the use of chiaroscuro and various lighting effects show the polemic of the past, present and potential future of the site. The center's main pavilion is wooden, light and full of light. It invites us to explore the place's past together. From the open and bright space, we have to go up the stairs to the underground, where the way through the monolithic dark corridor to silence and concentration is played out. To prayer and the sacred. The mere change in the perception of the eye to the light gives seriousness, we perceive that our attitude and the organization of stimuli changes.

ogród z „kwaterami cmentarnymi”

A garden with "cemetery quarters"

© Ewa Pokrzywa

At the very end of the passage is a heavy steel door, which is the entrance to the sarcophagus. It is a monolithic cuboid, in the center of which is a tombstone. Placed on a glass frame, it gives the impression of levitating. The effect is fueled by light coming into the room through a narrow window. The entire room is dark, with a spotlight on the tombstone, which emphasizes that the object is a treasure to be protected.

ohel wizualizacja wnętrza

The ohel and visualization of the interior of the sarcophagus

© Ewa Pokrzywa


Illustrations: © Author

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