‘A place of injustice’

National Monument Kamp Amersfoort

24-12-2018

The memorial at Kamp Amersfoort is going through a metamorphosis. Visitors’ feelings will be addressed by major changes and peculiar details. The National Museum will become a spot where the architecture brings the past to the present. 

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Fourteen years ago, Inbo designed a pavilion on the grounds of Kamp Amersfoort, which is currently used as museum, information centre and educational centre. A wish had been expressed to expand the memorial to show the history of the entire camp. 

Over 35,000 people were kept here, before they were put on transports. Architect Jacques Prins has spoken to former prisoners about the construction plans. They emphatically advised to let visitors feel the atmosphere at the time. ‘Do not try to rebuild it too literally; that will prove impossible. You cannot represent what we went through.’ 

The connection of the new buildings with the surrounding nature is an essential part of the design. This is felt immediately as one walks the specially devised path through the building and on the grounds. As soon as visitors pass the original gate, they arrive at a desolate, open space that is fenced off by high walls. Jacques: ‘When one enters this location, it gives both a spacious and an oppressing sensation, the way the prisoners felt entirely abandoned and detached.’ Only a few trees are present, which were already there during World War II. Possibly a source of inspiration for Armando’s “guilty landscapes”, who lived near this camp during the war. There is also a stainless-steel wall with the names of all prisoners. This open square is the roof of the new underground museum, which will be thrice as large as the current museum. 

The roof also offers a line of sight along the shooting range to the “stone man”, a memorial monument at the execution place on the other side of the forest. The office of the camp commander, once so distressingly present, has been left as a negative space in the new design of the surface pavilion, which is covered in mirrored glass. Because the museum is a place of “mémoir et miroir”. Reflecting, remembering and, most importantly, looking ahead; what is the current state of affairs of what transpired here, and what do we learn from it? 

Jacques: ‘The new memorial has a reserved architecture, and we think it will remain topical just as long as the existing building that we designed here 15 years ago. It is rightfully an integral design: the initiators, the board members, the designers, the process supervisors, staff members and volunteers, every person has had a demonstrable influence on this memorable location.’ 

Further information: Jacques Prins