Terezín – Ghetto Museum

Architectural competition: 2022 (1st prize)
Author: Marcela Steinbachová
Author of Space of Light: Steven Holl
Cooperation: Veronika Tichá (study), David Korecký (exhibition concept), Vladimir Pavlovič (construction consultant), Jan Sulzer and Lada Veselá from Terra Florida (landscape design), Jan Mojka, Marie Harigelová
Vizualization: Michal Nohejl (obrazek.org)
Investor: Terezín Memorial


Ghetto Museum

Terezín, a Baroque town, was founded in 1780 as a military fortress. It is a town with a fascinating site plan organized orthogonally with blocks and areas with parks. Terezín also witnessed historical events that cannot be forgotten. During World War II, the town served as Jewish Ghetto and the Small Fortress as a Gestapo prison. Between 1940 to 1944, more than 150,000 Jews were sent there, including 15,000 children, and an estimated 33,000 people died due to extreme population density and malnutrition.

In the middle of Terezín there is The Ghetto Museum, a witness to past lives and tragedies, but also a memorial to courage and hope. It is housed in a former school building built in 1879. In our design, the former school becomes part of the exhibition and is supplemented by a new functional solution, which emphasizes significant values and challenges, and accommodates more visitors to the Museum. It is a place not only of remembrance, but also of contemporary life and the direction and lessons of history.

Space of Light, a new addition, is a space of light and a hope. Ascending the tower, it is a clear expression of the concept and programmatic requirements. Space of Light is a place where one can experience spectral light phenomena when the white daylight is refracted into a spectrum of colors—the colors of humanity. The walls are white plaster and the floor is terracotta, surfaces onto which light and color fill the space. The space is flexible for events, but it primarily serves as a contemplative space.

The building itself is covered with naturally weathering Verdigris copper. The building peeks out between the surrounding houses as an icon. At night, the glowing building will be a beautiful sight.

The school building overall is sensitively renovated with an emphasis on the restoration of all surfaces and original elements. The building tells a story and refers to its history with a fine layer of exposed surfaces. A new layout of the permanent exhibition about the Terezín Ghetto is designed for participatory involvement of the visitor as an actor, not just a spectator. There are many interactive elements in the exhibition such as a hologram projection, touch screens, listening bells, and a light installation in the attic with which the visitors actively engage.

Museum Surroundings

The design also includes modifications to the surrounding areas and parks of the museum. The common motif of landscape design is to work with vegetation to complement the architecture with dignity and refinement in the environment.

In front of the Museum there is a newly paved square, which seamlessly connects to the green space of a city park 'Jiráskovy sady'. The Museum Garden is a meditative space with a water feature and preserves several original tree species with the supplementation of new ones. The Park of Terezín Children behind the Museum is conceived as an enclosed quiet area with a flower meadow and a minimalist memorial water wall. A motif of the pavement which disintegrates freely towards the lawn is used all around the Museum.

Information Center and Parking Lot of the Terezín Memorial

The planned Information Center and Car Park are designed with a simple contemporary architectural approach. The design is driven by clarity of orientation in space as well as sufficient comfort for guests with plenty of welcoming green areas. It is a renovation using parts of the existing building for a new solution, including load-bearing concrete walls and ceilings. The Information Center is designed as a glazed building with a copper roof, which significantly extends beyond the building and provides visitors shelter from the rain or sun. There is a passageway in the middle of the building from the parking lot to the existing orchard with ample bistro seating, providing a calm and quiet area for visitors. The existing fruit trees will remain until gradual replacement by ornamental cultivars of cherries, apple, almond and pear.

The concept of the Car Park is designed to not only fulfill the transit function, but also provide space for rest and waiting. The oval detour and the arrangement of parking spaces on both sides give rise to the generous central area for living and vegetation. The area will be planted with groups of deciduous trees of domestic origin with a planting of perennials and ornamental grasses and supplemented with new furniture. The section furthest from the main road is dedicated to bus parking, areas near the information center are intended for disabled parking and other areas are designated for cars, some with the possibility for recharging stations. Six longitudinal bus stops are reserved for safe passenger exits directly to the central pedestrian zone.