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06.12.13
Eric Kahn and Russell Thomsen Receive 2013 Grant from the Graham Foundation

SCI-Arc design faculty members Eric Kahn and Russell Thomsen, founders of IDEA Office, are among the 2013 recipients of a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, to support their ongoing project, Thinking the Future of Auschwitz. The project will be exhibited at SCI-Arc in the fall of 2014, accompanied by a public discussion with Director Eric Owen Moss.

Thinking of the Future of Auschwitz | IDEA Office | www.ideaoffice.net

Thinking the Future of Auschwitz (shown here) is an architectural proposal for the future of the Nazi concentration camp in Poland. While the original concentration camp and Polish State Museum at Auschwitz maintain their status as a narrated, didactic experience, this proposal transforms the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau into a Tel Olam.

Originally cited in Deuteronomy, a Tel Olam marks a place of unspeakable evil, blotting out and rendering a place inaccessible. Translated as a perpetual heap—in contemporary terms, a machinic field—it produces an indeterminate traumatic figure, steadfastly delimiting a perimeter. Proper to its unutterable status, Birkenau becomes perpetually indeterminate, generating a probing, hermeneutic experience without immediate answers, withholding solace and defying (convenient) philosophical closure.

While the project is unique to Auschwitz, it tests architecture's own particular agency in the twenty-first century and contributes significantly to an expanded discourse on the conventions of catastrophe.

Eric A. Kahn and Russell N. Thomsen are licensed architects and partners in IDEA Office. In addition to teaching at SCI-Arc, they have held chairs at the University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Arkansas, as well as visiting professor positions at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen. The work of IDEA has been recognized and published internationally and is part of the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as private collections. The partners are recipients of the Young Architects Award and the Emerging Voices Award, both sponsored by the Architectural League of New York.