February 22, 2016
by Elsa Lam
Front Sectional Elevation of The Evidence Room (Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, Donald McKay, Michael Nugent, Nicole Ratajczak, Alexandru Vilcu)
In 2000, in a trial held in London, England, the notorious British Holocaust denier David Irving sued an American historian and her publisher for libel. At issue: did the Holocaust really happen, or was the planned and systematic murder of six million European Jews an elaborate hoax?
The Evidence Room Isometric with Ceiling (Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, Donald McKay, Michael Nugent, Nicole Ratajczak, Alexandru Vilcu)
Gas Hatch from Auschwitz Gas Chamber (photo Omer Arbel)
The battle over the meaning of the architectural evidence took centre stage. Ultimately, forensic interpretation of the blueprints and architectural remains of Auschwitz became crucial in the defeat of Irving in what remains to date the most decisive victory against Holocaust denial.
Gasdoor Peephole Photograph Detail (photo by unknown Russian photographer)
University of Waterloo architecture professor Robert Jan van Pelt served as the expert witness on Auschwitz in the Irving Trial. His report became one of the sources of inspiration for a new discipline located at the intersection of architecture, technology, history, law, and human rights: architectural forensics.
Interior Perspective of Auschwitz Gas Column in The Evidence Room (Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, Donald McKay, Michael Nugent, Nicole Ratajczak, Alexandru Vilcu)
On invitation of Alejandro Aravena, Artistic Director of the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, van Pelt, his colleagues Bordeleau, Hastings, and McKay, together with a team of students from Waterloo, will present a work that summarizes the forensic analysis of Auschwitz within the larger group exhibition “Reporting From the Front”.
Waterloo Architecture Student Bradley Paddock Measures to Cut Mock-up Gas Chamber Door to Size (photo Fred Hunsberger)
The Evidence Room consists of life-sized replicas and casts of key pieces of architectural evidence (gas column, gas door, wall section with gas-tight hatch, blueprints, architects’ letters, contractors’ bills, photographs etc.) that proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that Auschwitz was a purposefully designed factory of death, equipped with large, homicidal gas chambers and massive incinerators.
Waterloo Architecture Students Alexandru Vilcu, Siobhan Allman, Anna Longrigg, and Piper Bernbaum Review the Auschwitz Crematorium Evidence Plans with Waterloo Architecture Professor and The Evidence Room Co-Principal Robert Jan van Pelt (photo Fred Hunsberger)
The Evidence Room will be presented at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, called “Reporting from the Front”, curated by Alejandro Aravena. The project, by Robert Jan van Pelt, Anne Bordeleau, Sascha Hastings, and Donald McKay of Cambridge (Ontario) and Toronto, will be shown in the Central Pavilion from May 28 to November 27, 2016. A book will accompany the project.