June 5, 2019
Hirshhorn Presents U.S. Premiere of “The Evidence Room”
Immersive Installation Explores Architecture and Ethics Relating to the Holocaust
June 12–Sept. 8, 2019
This spring, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will present the U.S. premiere of “The Evidence Room,” an installation that gives visual testament to the atrocities of the Holocaust, on view June 12–Sept. 8. “The Evidence Room” draws on architectural forensic evidence to focus attention on the architecture that made the Auschwitz concentration camp a systematic factory for mass murder. Piecing together information gleaned from blueprints, correspondence and photographs that substantiate eyewitness accounts, the project explores the role of architecture in history, addressing themes around ethics and truth.
“The Evidence Room” features three architectural reconstructions, 65 plaster casts that give sculptural form to evidence presented by architectural historian Robert Jan van Pelt in a landmark libel case in London in 2000. Thwarting Nazi attempts to destroy the proof of their crimes and post-war Holocaust denial, the evidence gathered traces the work done by German architects between 1941 and 1943 and points what van Pelt has referred to as the greatest crime ever committed by architects.
“We are pleased to host the first presentation of ‘The Evidence Room’ in the United States,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “By allowing visitors to step into this immersive architectural environment, the project will bring audiences into a sculptural account of history that should never be forgotten.”
Stepping into the room, viewers are confronted by the full-scale reality of the gas chamber door, altered to hinge outward, the early model gas hatch through which Zyklon-B was thrown, and the gas column that allowed for the quick retrieval of the deadly gas, enabling more frequent use of the chamber. Lining the walls of the room are relief panels that fill in the narrative of the work by reproducing the key archival documents that were presented at trial. Coated in a ghostly white palette, the project is a space for contemplation and remembrance so that the horrors of the past are not forgotten.
“The Evidence Room” was commissioned by the Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. The project was designed and built by a team from the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, that was led by van Pelt and architects Donald McKay and Anne Bordeleau, with architecture and design curator Sascha Hastings. The Hirshhorn’s presentation of “The Evidence Room” is organized by Assistant Curator Betsy Johnson in collaboration with The Evidence Room Foundation.
About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the national museum of modern and contemporary art and a leading voice for 21st-century art and culture. Part of the Smithsonian, the Hirshhorn is located prominently on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. With an array of paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works, the Hirshhorn’s collection encompasses one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs on the art of our time—free to all, 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25). For more information, visit hirshhorn.si.edu.
Image: Interior perspective of “The Evidence Room.” Photo by Fred Hunsberger, University of Waterloo School of Architecture.