Babyn Yar
Year: 2016
Location: Kiev, Ukraine
Team: Swarnabh Ghosh, Khyati Saraf, Craig Rosman
Status: Competition, Finalist

Babyn Yar is a repository of many histories. The sheer violence and density of its tortured past transcends any attempts at explication or narration to present-day visitors. For this reason, we propose that Babyn Yar be preserved as a living, evolving ground for the perpetual and unresolved process of memorialization that is at once individual and collective, sympathetic and empathetic, continual and fleeting. This intervention recalls fragments of its irredeemable past, not to facilitate casual empathy but to acknowledge the weight of its history and to resist embalming this history with neat platitudes.

This proposal stitches the disparate precincts of the site through a series of horticultural and topographical procedures:

1. Creating a series of ‘subtractions’ or clearings that reveal the artifice of the seemingly gentle temperate woodland that has come to occupy large portions of the site. The subtractions will be created by the removal of existing vegetal material – an inverse topiary that reveals the surface of the ground. These clearings are not programmatic or ‘functional’ but instead a dual-operation of excision and juxtaposition. The legibility of these subtractions will be a work-in-progress requiring the regular performance of tending, pruning, raking, digging, planting and mowing, thus forfeiting any pretensions to permanence or stasis. Partial neglect will obscure their existence and protracted neglect will erase them completely.  

2. Consolidating the discordant path network by making minor adjustments, adding new way-finding ‘beacons’ and introducing a secondary and tertiary network of paths and trails. This new path network works in concert with existing pathways to provide a range of pedestrian experiences and encounters. The paths are not meant to ‘guide’ visitors to the new clearings but rather vivify with the presence of humans, the subversive quietude of the temperate forest. The way finding ‘beacons’ take the form of levitating rocks. The rocks are at once a fragment of the site by virtue of their geological antecedents, and also not of the site.

3. Finally, a new field of vegetation will seek to register the original extents of the ravine - a part of the site that represents the hegemony and violence of grading, flattening and in-filling. This field of trees, a new early-blooming cultivar of Norway Maple (Acer Platanoides ‘Babyn Yar’) seeks to gently disrupt the banal orderliness of the most violent part of the site by contradicting its seasonal vicissitudes and its visual consistency.