The Beslan hostage drama
On 1 September 2004 the School No. 1 in Beslan celebrated the start of the new school year in a ceremony attended by numerous guests. At the same time terrorists stormed the school and took more than 1,000 hostages - most of them children. The terrorists demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops in Chechnya. The hostages were held for three days at the school's gymnasium caught under inhumane conditions. On the third day Russian special forces finally stormed the school. According to official figures 331 people were killed during the terrorist attack, including 186 children.
Source: Julia Jussik. Die Schule von Beslan, Cologne 2006
Building Concept / Planning
Our office Dr. Krekeler Generalplaner GmbH was commissioned by the government of North Ossetia-Alania to design a memorial around the destroyed school complex. The design task confronted us with the brutality of those who spread fear and terror on one hand and those who suffered violence on the other. We chose the school's gymnasium as the center of hostage-taking as the central place of remembrance. An elliptically shaped mourning wreath as it is found commonly in the Beslan area served as a model for the new building's shape around the destroyed gymnasium. Thus, this structure is itself symbolic of a funeral wreath. The still existing buildings with all their traces of the hostage drama are an essential aspect in our design concept in order to preserve the authenticity of the place.
Construction of the external cladding of the new memorial
The new memorial building, consisting out of 106 filigree concrete columns, encloses and protects the ruined gymnasium as an elliptical covering. Aslope metal-clad hollow sections are located on the outside of the concrete columns and are occasionally fixed to them. Tissue-like perforated plane golden alloy sheets are clamped between the concrete columns and the hollow sections, wrapping the building. During the planning phase we were searching for a high quality material which appearance imparts adequate dignity of both victims and relatives. The perforation of the golden alloy was based on a gridded floral motif. Every single hole was machinable punched into the metal sheets (W / H: 1m x 11m). To generate the floral motif 5 different hole diameters were used, so that floral image is recognizable from the distance. We chose a flower (Helleborus orientalis) which grows in the Caucasus and is a symbol of virginity and innocence. At selected locations, building high openings give access to the internal walkway between the new memorial building and the ruined gymnasium. An elliptical glass skylight is located symmetrically above the gymnasium to provide illumination to the memorial hall.