New Bergen-Belsen Documentation and Information Center
A two hundred-meter long and, at eighteen meters wide, relatively slender monolithic building houses the new Documentation and Information Center at the Bergen-Belsen Memorial. The two-storey edifice, stringently structured in terms of function, lies like a dynamically extended walk-in sculpture in the middle of Heidewald forest on the edge of the former concentration camp. Its extraordinary cubature, the radical limitation to just a few monochrome materials, the lack of any detailed ornamentation as well as the physical presence of the large shape with minimalist recesses and openings merge into a powerful, meaningful piece of architecture. At the place where they were actually perpetrated, it illustrates in a self-confident but unobtrusive manner the function and importance of a new form of documentation and research of Nazi crimes that is geared to international standards, and gives it a form of expression that is appropriate to the task.
The building traces exactly the former course of the country road leading from Celle to Hörste, which was altered with the construction of the camp and as such becomes a three-dimensional section of the historic route. The symbolic, gestural entrance appears to have been cut out of the solid carcass. The foyer and various service facilities are located to the side of the recess.
Two paths lead from the entrance: the one into the building, continuously though scarcely perceptibly rising in a perplexing manner along the exhibition areas to the end of the large hall. Here a wide window that embraces the front of the building affords visitors to the exhibition an excellent view both inside and outside and gives the structure a striking appearance.
Along the second, the “stony path”, visitors can pass through the entire length of the building without actually entering it. Covered at the beginning, it leads across a central courtyard to the other side of the building, where, in the open air, but narrowly flanked by insurmountably high concrete walls it opens onto the grounds of the camp. Precisely at the former boundary of the camp the building breaks off contact with the ground. From here it projects several meters, remaining in a state of permanent tension just above ground level and with great respect for this place.