Absent Monument


Nothing is Something

  • Location Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • ProgramMemorial for the deported Jews of Frankfurt
  • ClientThe City of Frankfurt am Main
  • Size250 m²
  • YearJury’s Special Prize, 2009-10
  • EngineerRambøll

Is it possible to create a meaningful memorial for the Jews that was gathered at this place - at the Frankfurt Grossmarkthalle, to be deported to the extermination camps? A memorial for the loss of homes, loss of privacy, loss of social belonging, loss of country, loss of history and loss of future?

By removing a part of the river Main we create a void - a space of absence, of nothingness, that can reminding us of the lives that were taken away.

Absent Monument is an interpretation of deportation. The steady movement of the water is brought to a fall. In this exact place, the visitor will experience the void, and in a very direct way the meaning of deportation and segregation of the Jews from the community of Frankfurt.


The design was conceived as a response to what seemed like a battle to be lost.

The European Central Bank was going to build a skyscraper on the scene of the crime - next to The Grossmarkthalle. The two building creating a X and a Y axises in a gigantic Cartesian coordinate system. One embodying the history, the other one the future. The horisontal; Grossmarkthalle (a historic landmark), pointing backwards, and the vertical; the ECB-highrise pointing upwards - towards the future.
They were going to build a giant monuments in glass and steel, to celebrate money and progress on the site of Nazi violence and hate. The designteam realised that a new structure build in the memory of Frankfurt jews couldn't possibly win the battle for attention with this giant - it would be like raising a tombstone - a ridiculously small one, that would give the impression that we were trying to bury the memory of holocaust.

Building nothing was the only possible option...to do the absent monument.


Less spectacular, less impressive...more less.

But this battle of the giants is restricted and difficult for the visitors, the Grossmarkthalle as a place of history and the persecution of the Jews to understand. The situation is changed by adding a further coordinate - a place where an individual can find his place between past and future. This place is the absent monument. A place of reflection, peace and enlightenment, one of the überschauen from both historical and new structures, and also makes a new spatial experience so interesting that it forces the persecution of Jews and the Holocaust in our memory.


The idea shall be added to as little as possible to the original state of the territory. Grossmarkthalle, bridge and signal tower, etc. are restored, not renovated and the area is organized, not designed. The recess in the water is less of a draft as a modulation of existing river. The continuation of the river and the sound of falling water leads the visitor towards the shore, making it a part of the experience of the area around the Grossmarkthalle. The absent monument is an interpretation of the deportation simply by taking away a part of the river is the uniform motion of the water from this point at overthrown. The visitor experiences the emptiness and understands in a very visual way the exclusion and expulsion of Jews from the Frankfurt Community. Although the Main itself not for the deportation was used, then the flus a great symbolic importanceas a symbol of life and time - he connects Frankfurt with the rest of the world. Creating a space in a watercourse is something other than a hole in the ground. The gap is not to imitate a grave - it shows the sudden fall and direction. The void in the flow of water is a case here or a sudden change of direction. The water is in constant motion, even if it stands still for a moment, it flows in the next in a new direction and joins with the river again.


An open top concrete box, is placed in the riverbed. Inside the concrete box is an adjustable steel frame mounted that moves with the changing water level - limiting the inflow to the box.
The water from the bottom of the concrete box is pumped back into the river. A pump on shore is designed to create limited maintenance costs and for the constructions to be invisible for the audience.