Part of architecture’s vast history, and probably one of the first structures humans built, are the mausoleums. These structures provide a peaceful final resting place for loved ones who passed away and memorialize the meaningful legacy their lives had embarked on earth. Some of the famous and architecturally acclaimed mausoleums in the world are the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome or also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and of course, the majestic, ivory-white marble mausoleum, the Taj Mahal in India. Culturally in the Philippines, mausoleums are built not only to give a modest resting place for the deceased but it’s also for the living family members. Every 1st of November, families gather together to unitedly visit the said resting place and take the time as well to have a mini reunion, cherishing the great memories of the loved one.

The mixture of the rips and glazing that creates playful rays of light and shadows as the sunlight penetrate the structure in various times of the day.

Talking about memories, the historical World War II has brought so many memories, both the good and the bad. Good in a sense that most countries now can exercise their own freedom and run their own government. The bad will be the extremely hard situations that the war generation had to go through and sadly, the people of the villages in Michniów, Poland were statistically included in the millions of war victims.

The front façade resembles that of a rural house with the structures wood grain features.

The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages, designed by Nizio Design International, is an architectural commemoration project that was commissioned by The Kielce Countryside Museum. The project is to serve as a symbolic remembrance of casualties in rural Polish communities for their martyrdom under the German occupation. “Viewing historical photographs of the pre-war village of Michniów, its inhabitants, scenes from everyday life, we felt that we were interacting with something full, complete, with the natural rhythm of life. In turn, when looking at the photographs of the pacification of 1943, seeing human drama, death, burning houses, we touched upon painful history, experienced the emotions that accompany the violent breaking of the lifeline. We felt this pervasive and growing destruction. This process served as the impetus for the design of the exterior and the exhibition,” shares Miroslaw Nizio.

The whole project sits on a 16,000 square meter lot and the main exhibition takes up around an area of 1,700 square meter. Since the end of the war, the site has always been a symbolic place of remembrance of the tragic incident. Erected in 1945 was the collective grave of the victims, followed by the sculpture named “Pieta of Michniów”, and finally the National Remembrance House. 

From the front, the mausoleum looks like a rural house but as one draws nearer, it’s one long narrow structure. The linear layout of the mausoleum carefully imparts to its visitors the progression of the degrading and inhumane experiences the victims had to go through. The structure consists of 11 segments, where the first five were the enclosed ones. As a visitor enters the mausoleum, he/she will be conditioned with a feeling of calmness in the sacred space, called the “House of Tranquility”. Going in further, emotions start to stir up as shown are the different exhibitions of the people’s tragedy, the terror and extermination of the Polish people, guerilla’s struggles and resistance movements, and the like. Reaching the last six segments, where the monolithic concrete body starts to break out, marks of fractures and cuts sets out, open exhibition of crime perpetrators are displayed. These segments convey a message that what was once a solid community is now degraded, destroyed and nothing is left in the aftermath of the pacifications.

The monolithic structure mainly used watertight concrete jointing and injection technology.  Adding texture to it, features of wood grain were applied on all visible sides such as the exterior and inner walls and the roof slopes. As an authentic material, concrete over time will bear traces of water, dust, and soil, making the structure be more integrated with its surrounding. The incorporation of glass panels to the closed exhibitions also naturally adds drama to the intent of the space. Further materials are added on the interiors to fully encapsulate the overall sensory experience of the visitors. These are the wood from the old huts of the neighboring villages and the black steel which somehow visitors were able to feel the dusty and disturbing smell of such materials.

Officially opened in July 2021, the project took 13 long years to fully materialized. The conceptualization was created in 2009 as the design team won the first prize in the competition organized by the investor. The Mausoleum of Martyrdom of Polish Villages has remarkably executed a project of great value and has been appreciated all over the world with all the awards it has received.

Article Credits: Drawings and courtesy of Nizio Design International; Images courtesy of Marcin Czechowicz ©

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