The international competition organized in 2016 invited proposals for two buildings: a memorial museum and a research center. The two buildings are planned to be built on two sides of the Sarajevo International Airport. Under the airport, a clandestine tunnel was dug during the Siege of Sarajevo to enable a necessary link between the occupied city and the so called ‘free zone’.
Currently, a section of app. 20 meters is preserved and open to the public, as part of an exhibition mounted immediately after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended. The competition brief asked for structures that can facilitate the tunnel’s growing popularity, preserve the authenticity of the location and bring additional symbolical value to the site.
The memorial museum and the accompanying research center are designed to preserve and commemorate a structure of a profound significance, but also to create a space that can meet the complex demands of the existing memorial site.
The two buildings, separated by the Sarajevo airport, communicate in both their materialization and symbolic meaning. To reflect the tunnel’s history, the outer walls of the new buildings are made of rammed earth. With green roofs, they appear as lifted layers of soil. This mirrors the fact that earth played an essential role in the process of making the original tunnel: enormous heaps of earth were taken out and deposited next to the exits and entrances. The earth was mostly used as visual barrier and protection, for example trenches were made to ensure a safer passage.
To accentuate the underground nature of the tunnel, both the museum and the research center gradually descend into the earth and direct towards the authentic buildings on the site. The original 20 meters of the tunnel can be reached via the exhibition spaces, which continue to descend gradually into the earth. With an argument that memorial architecture on authentic sites (containing original structures) needs to be moderate and symbolically tailored for the specificities of a given topic, new structures aim to enhance the sense of place.