Czech design competition for memorial to Holocaust victims of Roma/Sinti origin opens in September, winner to be announced in the spring
The Museum of Romani Culture, in collaboration with ONplan, has completed three months of consultations about preparations for the international two-round architectural and landscape competition entitled "Lety u Písku, Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia". The contest will seek the best design for new landscaping and a memorial to the victims of the concentration camp for Romani people there.
Many stakeholders were involved in preparing the competition design, and between April and June of this year, a working group including experts from different professions, Museum of Romani Culture staffers, and relatives of camp victims convened five times to discuss it. The task of the working group was, above all, to develop the background materials for commissioning the architectural and landscape competition.
With the aim of involving the broadest possible spectrum of stakeholders in the design of the contest, consultation on the working group's outputs was solicited from more than 100 representatives of relatives of the victims of the Lety camp; from representatives of Roma who previously contributed to building the already-existing memorial, or who worked on lobbying for the pig farm that previously occupied the site to be bought out; from associations and initiatives dedicated to human rights and Romani issues; from state or state-established organizations; from representatives of academic and professional institutions; from the partners financing the project; and from non-Romani figures openly supporting the Romani minority. The consultations took place over the course of two afternoons in May and June at the headquarters of the Culture Ministry in Prague.
The aim was to present the current situation with respect to the site, details of the plan for building the Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia, and the basic outlines of the architectural and landscape competition. During both consultations, those attending had the opportunity, after the introductory presentations, to consult individually with representatives of the Museum of Romani Culture and ONplan.
The suggestions made during those consultations concerned, among other matters, a requirement that the memorial speak to future generations, that the stories of the individuals who were imprisoned in the camp be told, and that the culture of the Roma and Sinti be respected by the way the site is treated. The necessity of including the names of the camp victims was discussed, as well as the fact that the list of victims is incomplete.
Those who consulted were also interested in details of how the competition will be organized and how the demolition of the pig farm will be prepared. In association with preparing to commission the competition, meetings were also held in May with residents of Lety and neighboring municipalities in the social hall of the local restaurant.
The aim of those meetings was to present those attending with information about the current state of the memorial and ideas for what the future memorial could be like, but above all, it was to ascertain how local residents assess the current state of the site and to map their expectations and possible concerns associated with the future memorial. Local residents talked mostly about the countryside surrounding the memorial, its picturesqueness, its tranquility, and its well-maintained roads, but also about other local areas associated with the history of the camp.
The fear was expressed that the competition proposals might not respect the landscape. Naturally, local residents also said that the investment into buying the pig farm, financing its demolition, and subsequently building the new memorial far exceeds the budgets local municipalities have to work with for their own needs.
The greatest benefit of these discussions for the Museum was raising the question of possible future cooperation with Lety municipality, where the local social hall could potentially be used for cultural events connected with Museum of Roma Culture programming that will not be held directly at the memorial site. In parallel, one-on-one negotiations are underway with the owners of plots of land adjacent to the former camp, representatives of the neighboring municipalities, and some state administration bodies.
Currently experts on the culture and history of Romani people, both Museum staffers and external consultants, are very intensively working with ONplan to finalize the terms of the competition, to commission it, and to prepare its accompanying publications and web presentation. The working group outputs and the suggestions arising from the consultations and meetings with local residents will be included in that documentation.
The timing of the commissioning of the competition will be coordinated with the findings of the next phase of archaeological research, the aim of which is first and foremost to find where the victims of the former concentration camp for Romani people at Lety are buried. The Museum assumes the competition will be announced this September, and according to the preliminary schedule, the first round will close in December 2019, followed by a second round that will end with the announcement of the winning design in the spring of 2020.
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