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'The Evidence Room' Confronts Architecture's Role at Auschwitz

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The exhibit is located inside the Central Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale

Now open at this year’s Venice Architectural Biennale, "The Evidence Room" is a haunting exhibition that confronts architecture’s complicity in Nazi concentration camps through full-scale replicas of parts of an Auschwitz gas chamber.

The all-white installation was conceived in part by University of Waterloo architecture historian Robert Jan van Pelt, an expert witness who, in a 2000 libel case, testified against Holocaust denier David Irving’s claim that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. Van Pelt collaborated with fellow professors Donald McKay and Anne Bordeleau, and arts producer Sascha Hastings on the show.

Working from blueprints and letters uncovered during Van Pelt’s research, the curators recreated a wire mesh column that was used to lower Zyklon B poison into gas chambers, a gas-tight hatch, and a replica of a gas chamber door, the two sides of which are strikingly different: only one side has a handle, and the interior peephole is covered by a wire cage. Plaster casts of gas masks, architectural drawings, and other objects also line the walls.

"This is evidence of the worst crime ever committed by an architect," Van Pelt told Dezeen. "This is the worst thing an architect has ever done—it is the baseline of evil in architecture."

The exhibit runs through November 27.