The border dividing Belarus and Poland is a political barrier that also shapes the European Union’s external borders with its eastern neighbouring countries.
52º32’0”N, 23º23’21”E are coordinates of a specific point along this line dividing both countries: An outstanding forest with exceptional features: Bialowieża Forest.
One could say that such ecosystem is a forest with a huge ecological value, but reality goes beyond, it is indeed a primary forest. This means it is a wild undisturbed forest, where there has been no human intervention. Trees that die and fall are respected since they help the other living organisms to keep growing. When visiting it, you realise what a forest looked like 10,000 years ago; it is indeed the oldest forest in Europe.
Among its trees live 20,000 animal species, including one-fourth of the world population of European bison, an exceptional animal facing extinction.
Last but not least, 142,000 Ha have been designated as a Unesco World Heritage.
One single ecological entity belonging to a single geographical zone but subject to a divided political reality: a border shaped by a barrier blocking free movement between both sides.
In fact, this division also means that the dimensions of the Strict Protection Area affecting this enclave differ in both countries. This consequence is especially serious because such legal vacuum regarding protection allows that certain policies with questionable interests may lead to the logging of forest areas.
In the face of this situation, we really believe that architecture can play an important role in society and have the power to lay bare the controversy of this reality.
Thus, using nature patterns, we create architectural processes. In a primary forest, a fallen tree generates new life; its place gives an opportunity for other species to grow. In this sense, by folding the border towards one side and the other, we create new spaces. By giving over from one side, we create a gap towards the bordering country, thereby offering in a symbiotic way a new space to enjoy, a new space where to grow.
We propose an Interpretation Centre of Nature that would merge with the border dividing it. This will give birth to a new spatial and bureaucratic reality, politically incendiary and never known before: a frontier territory enabling the visitor to cross the geographical border separating two countries, without breaching the political border.
By doing so, we will find a fence that we can twist in order to create a situation that would raise awareness among society, hoping that a social outcry will entail a political response. The Bialowieża Interpretation Centre of Nature appears in the hope that the whole forest will one day become inviolable, merging the whole ecological complex into the UNESCO Strict Protection Area. We hope the Centre won’t be needed anymore, removing the fence and making it possible to explore the fenceless forest as what it is: our heritage, a world heritage and our oldest forest. Las pierwotny Białowieska