Power & Public Space 3: Manuel Herz – Babyn Yar Synagogue

Matthew Blunderfield and Manuel Herz

Power & Public Space is a podcast from Drawing Matter and the Architecture Foundation hosted by Matthew Blunderfield. You can find the full podcast series here. Or listen now:

Last year the Swiss practice Manuel Herz Architects completed a wooden synagogue West of Kyiv at Babyn Yar, the site of one of the bloodiest massacres of the Second World War.

In March 2022, as Russian forces attempted to take Kyiv, missiles once again struck the land near the mass grave. The attack was likely an attempt to destroy Kyiv’s largest TV tower, and five civilians were killed. While not the deadliest missile strike to hit Kyiv, it was perhaps the most symbolic. 

In this episode Manuel Herz discusses the historic implications of the Russian attack. He also explains the approach his practice took to memorializing the Babyn Yar atrocity, which in place of the heavy, fixed structures associated with holocaust memorials, proposes a light and transformative place of worship and public exchange. 

The painted ceiling of Herz’s unfolding monument references the interiors of Ukranian synagogues from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that have since been destroyed. The vivid, technicolour display also traces the constellation of stars visible over Kiev on the night the massacre began, creating an historical link that is at once sombre and transcendent.
Babyn yar Synagogue, Kyiv, Ukraine.