Sunday February 19 2012 / Art & Design

Prize-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has designed the Steilneset Memorial, a stunning structure on the island of Vardø in the extreme northeast part of Norway.

The memorial commemorates 91 people convicted of sorcery in the 17th century who were subsequently burnt at the stake.

It consists of two parts, one designed solely by 68-year-old Zumthor and another housing the last major installation by the late French-American artist and sculptor, Louise Bourgeois.

The first structure sees a fabric cocoon containing a long oak-floored corridor suspended inside a 125m-long framework made of pine.

Light bulbs in the corridor hang behind 91 windows, each one representing those victims executed during the witch hunts. All the lamps have a plaque explaining how each individual met their fate.

Bourgeois’s installation is called ‘The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved’.

Housed in the second structure made of steel and darkened glass, it features a circle of seven mirrors that surround and reflect a flaming steel chair (fuelled by gas) inside a hollow concrete cone.

This stunning memorial to the 91 murdered 'witches' shines a modern light on the horrendous acts of cruelty that took place in the name of religion. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, 30,000 to 60,000 people were burnt at the stake for witchcraft in Europe, including 6,000 in Switzerland.

Three years ago, Zumthor won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, awarded annually by the Hyatt Foundation to honour “a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture”.

For more information on Steilneset Memorial and Peter Zumthor, please visit www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/en/varanger/steilneset and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Zumthor

Suggested by
Maximilian Büsser