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10 Striking WWII Museums and Memorials to Commemorate VE Day

70 years ago today, the Second World War ended in Europe, sparking joyous celebrations and an unbridled sense of relief around the globe. While the day itself marks a positive moment in world history, the tragedies that preceded it left an indelible mark upon the memories of millions and will be remembered in perpetuity.

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Via the TOC.

Attempting to create a physical structure that is intended to encapsulate events of such gravity represents a monumental challenge for architects, with design priorities varying depending on context: the brief may call for a simple, poignant space for reflection or a more complex program to inform and educate younger generations about this crucial period in history.

In honor of this major anniversary, we explore 10 contemporary examples of architecture linked to World War II, from small-scale memorials to huge museums. Journey through this commemorative collection and click the links for more on each project via the Architizer database.

 

Vroenhoven Bridge by Ney and Partners, Riemst, Belgium

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A bridge over the Albert Canal between Antwerp and Liège marks the spot where the War began in Belgium. A bunker alongside the structure has been integrated into a sculptural concrete pavilion that leads to a small museum, telling the tale of this historic site through multimedia installations.

 

Energy Bunker by Hegger Hegger Schlieff Architekten, Hamburg, Germany

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An example of postwar adaptive reuse, the Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg flak bunker was transformed into a sustainable energy center that doubles as a public memorial. The bunker is now equipped with solar casing and water-storage facility and features a café within the original antiaircraft turrets.

 

Juno Beach Centre by Chamberlain Architect Services, Normandy, France

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This titanium-clad cultural complex on the site of the D-Day landings was designed to be “not just a monument to the dead, but a living museum”: each curved segment contains artifacts and information about Canadian contributions to World War II.

 

Aeronautical Cultural Center by Berta Barrio + Sergi Godia + Eloi Juvillá, El Orat de Llobregat, Spain

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Adjacent to Barcelona Airport, this concrete-clad building is designed to display and repair aircraft from World War II and the Spanish Civil War. The front elevation peels away from the ground, evoking a plane taking off, and the internal steel structure of the building is specially designed to allow full-sized aircraft to be suspended from its trusses.

 

Museum of the History of Polish Jews by Lahdelma and Mahlamäki Architects, Warsaw, Poland

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Although it is not solely dedicated to the tragedies of World War II, the landmark POLIN Museum stands on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto. A pleated glass box wraps a sculpted, canyon-like stone interior, which contains many historic artifacts relating to the plight of Polish Jews.

 

WWII Execution Memorial by Skoutelis N. and Zanon F., Damasta, Greece

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This rest-stop memorial on a hilltop in rural Greece is comprised of a tapered, fortress-like wall of stone and steps that lead to a viewing platform and sheltered bench for quiet reflection.

 

National World War II Museum by Voorsanger Architects and Jaffe Holden Acoustics, New Orleans, USA

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The exterior of this museum in Louisiana is defined by smooth precast concrete façades that peel away from the structure at certain points to allow light through to the interior. In contrast, the steel-and-glass elevations facing the internal courtyard are kept transparent and lightweight.

 

Jewish Museum Berlin by Studio Daniel Libeskind, Berlin, Germany

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Like the POLIN in Warsaw, Libeskind’s iconic museum spans a long history of the Jewish people, but includes a particularly powerful memorial at its heart. Artist Menashe Kadishman created ‘Shalechet (Fallen Leaves),' comprising 10,000 faces punched out of steel that lie upon the floor of the Memory Void. The ever-growing artwork represents not just those lost during the Holocaust, but all victims of violence and war.

 

Bonus: Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial by Gregory T Waugh, Atlantic City, USA

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Across the Atlantic, a design competition for a waterside memorial to the Holocaust resulted in a wide variety of proposals among the most striking of which was Gregory Waugh’s inhabitable abstraction in which thousands of rectangular tubes form a fractured space for contemplation.

 

Bonus 2: Museum of the Second World War by KWADRAT Studio Architektoniczne, Gdańsk, Poland

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The winning design for an iconic new museum on Poland’s north shore, KWADRAT’s angular prism of glass and terra cotta is suggestive of a ruptured, war-torn terrain, but resists any direct metaphors, allowing visitors to interpret the structure in their own way.

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