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Competition: Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre

An open international contest has been launched to design a landmark memorial centre at the site of the Babyn Yar massacre in Kiev (Deadline: 21 January)

The two-stage competition – judged by a panel featuring David Adjaye – seeks ‘creative and sensitive’ proposals for a 20,000m² museum commemorating one of the single largest atrocities of the Holocaust where approximately 33,771 Jews were killed.  

Proposals must focus on the entire 22,000m² Babyn Yar ravine but should not build on the 11,000m² footprint of a former Jewish cemetery which predated the massacre. Landscape concepts for the wider 55,000m² area surrounding the historic site in the suburbs of the Ukrainian capital will also be required.

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Source: Image by Jennifer Boyer

Babyn Yar, Kiev

In its brief, Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre (BYHMC) says it is ‘inviting architects from all around the world to submit their expressions of interest to participate in the competition.

‘The invitation is aimed equally at experienced and young architects, large and small offices. The highest degree of creativity, innovation, inspiration, sensitivity and commitment is expected.’

The Babyn Yar massacre saw an estimated 33,771 Jews killed in a ravine which had formerly been used as a Jewish cemetery. The lack of an international response to the mass murder which took place in September 1941 is thought to have played a key role in the intensification of the Holocaust over the following years.

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

In total between 100,000 and 150,000 people – including Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Ukrainian nationalists and Roma – are thought to have been killed at Babyn Yar during the Second World War.

The competition, organised by Berlin-based practice Phase Eins, is supported by the government of Ukraine and the BYHMC educational charity which was set up to commemorate the atrocity. Applications may be in English or Ukrainian.

The contest launch comes just over a year after Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects won an international competition for a Holocaust Memorial project in Westminster.

Alongside Adjaye, other judges in the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre contest include Kiev chief architect Alexander Svistunov; Snøhetta founding partner Kjetil Trædal Thorsen; and Rainer Mahlamäki, founding partner of Helsinki’s Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects.

Interested teams must submit detailed examples of three relevant previous projects. Up to 10 longlisted teams will then each receive €10,000 to participate in the first design round. Up to six shortlisted teams will receive €10,000 each to participate in the final design phase.

The overall winner – to be announced in July or August – will receive €20,000 while a second prize of €15,000 and third prize of €10,000 will also be awarded.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 21 January

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Yana Barinova

BYHMC’s chief operating officer and management board member discusses her ambitions for the competition

Yana Barinova

Yana Barinova

Yana Barinova

Why are your holding an international contest for a new Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre in Kyiv?

BYHMC is holding an international architectural competition to select the best design for a proposed new memorial centre, located close to the site of the Babyn Yar massacre in 1941. The idea of the contest is to identify the most innovative and appropriate designs, in order to bring the existing landscape of the memorial park into synergy with an iconic and distinctive architecture for the centre’s signature building.

Architectural competitions have frequently been held for such museum designs, including the Berlin Jewish Museum extension, won by Daniel Libeskind in 1989, and the POLIN Museum in Warsaw. While such competitions have not always been straightforward or without controversy, it is central to the concept for the BYHMC that all such decision-making processes should be open, transparent, and inclusive. Both the appointment of the judges and the invitation of applicants aim to achieve widespread participation, both locally and internationally. The competition will also serve to publicise the BYHMC project and invite citizens to become engaged.

What is your vision for the new Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre?

As memorial museums construct their operations around a tragic narrative, everyone interested must be able to make a contribution. And it is also important that dialogue should develop in a civilised manner, with due respect to ethical norms and involving a wide range of professions and other interested parties. The Lisbon Declaration stipulates that cultural institutions should assume a social function and be at the core of communities’ lives. These principles will be our guide, and the BYHMC strives to create a welcoming public forum, where this painful past can be discussed. The centre should serve as a symbol for tolerance and as a safe place for reflection, debate, research, and contemplation.

Contest site

Contest site

The memorial centre will be built in close proximity to the original site of the historical events in Kyiv, approximately 6 kilometres (3.8 miles) west of the historic centre of the Ukrainian capital. The site is adjacent to the National Historical Memorial Preserve ‘Babyn Yar,’ where numerous existing memorials and monuments commemorate the various groups and individual victims of Babyn Yar.

The architectural competition is focused on the design of two project areas: Project Area 1: total area 22,000m², however, due to the overlap with the area of the old Jewish cemetery, only 11,000m² can be used for construction. Project Area 2: landscape design of the immediate surroundings with an area of circa 55,000m² and organisation of access to the building.

The current concept for the BYHMC main building envisages: large core and temporary exhibition spaces; a learning and dialogue centre – that will include an auditorium, a contemplation area, and immersive media facilities; a research centre – with an open-plan library and archive domain with adjacent offices for research and administration purposes; as well as storage facilities for artefacts, books, archives, and restoration work.

The precepts for the building are that it shall be modern and well-suited to its purposes, both in terms of the aesthetic and practical considerations. For these reasons, in addition to design, issues of sustainability, ergonomics, efficiency, and comfort are all imperatives.

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Source: Image by Alex Long

Babyn Yar, Kiev

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is aimed at all architects – the only requirement is that they must be qualified to work as architects in their own country. To make matters easier, there will be two stages to the competition, such that more detailed architectural designs will not be required until the second stage. As the most important part of the design will be the concept and its aesthetics, this will give an opportunity for emerging architects to break through with an imaginative proposal. The invitation is aimed equally at experienced and young architects, large and small offices. The highest degree of creativity, innovation, inspiration, sensitivity, and commitment will be encouraged and rewarded. The only additional requirement is that architects collaborate with landscape designers in order to meet the landscaping elements associated with construction of the main building.

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Source: Image by Markv

Babyn Yar, Kiev

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

It is possible that further competitions will be opened subsequently for other elements of the centre, such as for the exhibit design and installation, but these will be quite separate from the current architectural competition for the construction of the centre building and associated landscape design.

Are there any other memorial projects you have been impressed by?

Well, I am a total reductionist and to my personal taste ‘less is more’. I am fascinated by the aesthetics of Peter Zumthor. Among the projects that have impressed me are the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg, Manitoba, designed by Antoine Predock and completed in 2014; the national memorial to lynching victims in Montgomery, Alabama; and the 9/11 memorial and museum in New York, designed by Michael Arad.


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