Memoriālais ansamblis un karagūstekņu piemineklis Salaspilī
The Salaspils Memorial Ensemble and Monument to Prisoners Of War
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The memorial ensemble on the site of the former Salaspils concentration camp (1967) and the nearby monument to Red Army prisoners of war (1968) are among the most significant Second World War memorials in Latvia’s Soviet-period art. After half a century since the opening of these monuments, the Soviet regime is gone and they no longer represent the official ideology. These monuments of artistic worth can now be reinterpreted and we can add new information to the history of their creation using the latest sources. The memorial competition was announced in 1960, receiving 24 proposals that earned two second prizes, one third prize and four promotional prizes. Initially, the authors of awarded designs formed the creative team; the group proved to be too large with sculptors and architects of different ages, life experiences, creative styles and ideas about the relationship between architecture and sculpture within an ensemble. The team’s final version was approved only shortly before the ensemble’s opening in 1967. The design process of the ensemble was full of both personal and conceptual discord. Modernist architects wanted a more expressive, emotionally powerful sculpture while sculptors adhered to Latvian sculptural traditions, aiming to bring the topical “Severe Style” tendency or geometricised Socialist Modernism into the ensemble. The memorial’s composition and relationships of architecture and sculpture aimed at marking the main elements of the former camp’s planning, making the visitor feel the spaces of suffering and annihilation. The ensemble’s most successful element is an asymmetrically constructed, massive geometric volume signifying the boundary between the spaces of “life” and “death”. It is built of monolithic concrete, retaining the mould impressions on the wall planes. The material and forms used were aimed at expressing harsh truth; one can say that Salaspils is the most consistent example of Brutalism in Latvia’ s conditions. On 7 February 2018, a museum exposition was opened in Salaspils, the ensemble was renovated and turned into an informative, up-to-date memorial.
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