Architecture and Collective Remembrance at the Tunnel D-B Memorial Site in Sarajevo | Sabina Tanović

Architecture and Collective Remembrance at the Tunnel D-B Memorial Site in Sarajevo | Sabina Tanović

Architecture has historically been used and explored as an aide-mémoire in various ways. Its role, however, in commemorating violent death is invariably complicated. In cases of human-on-human violence, commemoration is entangled with feelings of anger, resentment, and vengefulness. Official monuments, memorials, and memorial museums are created to remember difficult pasts and commemorate victims. Memory politics orchestrates who, what, and how to remember.3 In contrast to this top-down approach, official public memorial projects also originate from bottom-up initiatives pursued by those who feel excluded, underrepresented, or misrepresented. Regardless of the way memorials originate, designers normally assume a defining role in giving shape to physical forms of remembrance. The memorial museum—a relatively recent concept that originated in the twentieth century through the merging of symbolic memorial space and didactic content—emerged as an architectural category primarily dedicated to preserving difficult pasts. This article examines relevant commemorative practices and memorial architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) as a framework for the analysis of Sarajevo’s Tunnel D-B (popularly known as the “Tunnel of Hope” and “Tunnel of Salvation”), an official memorial site that is currently being transformed through a number of architectural interventions. After exploring the importance of these interventions in regard to national identity-building processes, the article focuses on the winning design submission, which proposes both interdisciplinary collaboration and public engagement. In examining the symbolic and utilitarian aspects of the D-B Tunnel memorial design, the article addresses the relationship between inclusive design processes and constructive communal remembrance.

The First and Second World Wars intensified memorial construction in the West. The unprecedented number of missing and dead soldiers in the First World War and the enormous scale of civilian fatalities brought about by the Nazi policy of industrialized murder in the Second World War prompted nation-states to respond with meaningful commemoration. The traditional sculptural monument installed on a pedestal—the type Austrian writer and philosopher Robert Musil referred to when he spoke of the invisibility of monuments in the 1930s—was insufficient to address the scale of atrocity inflicted by the wars.4 To recognize millions of dead soldiers after the First World War, an architecture of commemoration evolved to respond to conditions of national and individual mourning.5 Numerous war memorials and cemeteries depicted the scale of human loss and introduced new paradigms for memorial architecture. Unlike traditional public monuments that were normally intended as symbols of national stories of hope and glory—intentions manifested in victorious monumental forms at historic locations—architecture…

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