On July 18th of this year, 80 years after the first deportation convoy left the station, the commemorative park of the Bobigny Deportation Station will be officially opened. From 1943 to 1944, this was the main departure point for the deportation of French Jews, and it was later used as a scrapyard for a long time.
After the area became available in the early 21st century, the municipality launched a design competition for its transformation into a memorial site. In 2016, the design team led by OKRA won the competition.
The Bobigny station was built in 1928 as a hub for freight and passenger transport. During the German occupation, it was given an additional function as the main deportation station, from which Jewish citizens were deported to foreign extermination camps. In total, 21 convoys departed for Auschwitz-Birkenau from this location.
After World War II, the site remained unused for a long time initially, and then the French railway company leased the land to a scrap dealer. When the dealer left the premises, the site was declared a historical monument in 2005.
The Bobigny Deportation Station is unique in that it is the only deportation station in Paris that was no longer used as a transport hub after the war. As a result, it has remained largely intact, and there is now an opportunity to fully develop the area into a memorial monument for the history of this place.
The city of Bobigny, along with several partners, has sought to create a commemorative place to make the lost historical significance and symbolic value of the location visible.
The design for the memorial park connects the memory of the deportations with the contemporary urban context of Bobigny. The design reveals the hidden topography and landscape through symbolism and introspective experiences.
Although the height difference of the site was present during the time of the deportations, the concrete wall dividing the site into an upper and a lower area was an intervention made at the time of the scrapyard. This has divided the site in a clear higher and lower area. To an extent, this division has been maintained to create a gradual relationship between the timeless nature of the site and the surrounding city.
While the wall was maintained and transformed into part of the memorial, part of the upper area has been excavated to connect the areas for the scenographic route. This way, the sloping platform in the park creates a deliberately slow pace upon entry, as if he physical descent symbolises a reverse in time. Striking vistas and meaningful interactive pause moments offer visitors the opportunity to reflect on memories of the past.
The location is also unique in that it is home to several regionally important pioneer species. After the war, access to the site was restricted, allowing nature to take over.
Our design showcases the ecological qualities of the site with a focused maintenance plan that enhances the already rich biodiversity on the site. The natural qualities of the memorial park will contribute to the metropolitan ecology and symbolize the healing power of time.
The scenographic route runs partly along the track itself and connects a combination of historical and new elements that together create one story and experience. Accessibility for people with disabilities is subtly integrated. The fence on the street side consists of staggered elements the length of exactly one historic train car. Depending on speed of passing by and the angle, it is perceived as either open or closed. Behind it lies a new entrance pavilion with a balcony, designed by AAPP, which welcomes visitors and introduces the area and its history. From there the visitors start their descent, along the way benches and signs tell the history of the site.
In the lower area both station buildings have been restored respectfully and respectively. As has been the paving. At the same time interventions for, accessibility and safety were done.
The route introduces new narrative elements like the totems in Corten steel. Each steel totem depicts one of the convoys that passed through the station. The difference in orientation represents the distinction between trains that used it as an intermediate station and trains that departed from Bobigny itself.
Historic elements like the tower and the rails were made visible. On the rails, opposite the station building used for deportations, a new platform, the size of a train car, serves as a central platform for events and commemorations. Behind it, the concrete wall is engraved with “Si lécho de leur voix faiblit, nous perirons”. This quote is engraved in the concrete wall that directly adjoins the track from which the convoys departed. Translated freely, it means: “If the echo of their voices fades, we will perish.”
Architecture offices involved in the design:
Bobigny – Paris – France
2016 – 2019
2020 – 2023
Client name: Ville de Bobigny
Partners of the project: SNCF (National railway company), Ministère de la Défense, Région Île-de-France, Département de la Seine-Saint-Denis, Fondation du patrimoine, Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah
Area : 3 ha
Winner competition in 2016
Landscape design, architecture and scenographic
OKRA Landscape Architects lead consultant, icw:
8’18 Lighting Design
Empreinte + Orphéo (scenography and signage)
Photo Credits: Aitor Ortiz