The international competition organized in 2016 invited proposals for two buildings, a memorial museum and a research center, to be built on two sides of the Sarajevo International Airport. Underneath the airport, a clandestine tunnel (officially called Tunnel D-B) was dug during the siege of Sarajevo (1992 – 1995) to enable a necessary link between the occupied city and the so called ‘free zone’. The competition brief asked for architecture that can facilitate the tunnel’s growing popularity, preserve the authenticity of the location and bring additional symbolical value to the site.
Selected as the best proposal, the concept design aims to preserve, commemorate and create meaningful 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 and phisical 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. 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 context, new structures aim to enhance the sense of place and bring forward the remarkable resilience of people and space in the face of destruction.