Loving Landscapes

Sandy Hook memorial moves forward with three potential designs

East Landscape Architecture
The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of Berkeley, California (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)
The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of Berkeley, California (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

Three teams are in the running to design a memorial honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The top groups are set to present their concepts to the memorial commission on Tuesday, July 17 in Newtown, Connecticut.

The chosen teams, representing various cities and firms throughout the U.S., were selected out of 189 international submissions due last December and were narrowed down from 13 shortlisted designs in May. The project is the result of a five-year-long development by the memorial commission which was established in late 2013. 

Per the submission guidelines, entrants were asked to envision a public memorial that stretched across five acres of donated land located a quarter of a mile from the elementary school. Designers were challenged to consider the existing site’s rural setting and to maximize the use of its woods, wetlands, and ponds as well as to include native plants suited to the region and microclimate. In addition, entrants were asked to incorporate the “sacred soil” of incinerated items such as stuffed animals and flowers that were left as temporary memorials throughout the town following the shooting.

Up until this summer, all submitted designs were kept anonymous as the family members, public and memorial commission reviewed them privately. Now that the design teams have been made public, each group will present updated iterations of their initial proposals below at Tuesday’s meeting.  

Site plan of The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of Berkeley, California (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

Rendering of The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of Berkeley, California (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

The Clearing was designed by Berkeley-based designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck. It features an encircling landscape of winding pathways and trails that wrap through a flowery woodland. At the center is a young Sycamore tree planted inside a fountain with the names of the 26 victims of the shooting engraved around the stone edge. According to the team, the design symbolizes that the healing process does not end, but rather continues to grow and bring people closer together.

Site plan of Sandy Hook Memorial Garden by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

Rendering of the Sandy Hook Memorial Garden by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

The inspiration behind the Sandy Hook Memorial Garden revolves around 26 gardens and miniature fountains, each dedicated to the individual lives lost that day. A 36-inch-tall stone wall will be erected at the edge of the site and will include four separate dedications to the town of Sandy Hook, the first responders, the surviving teachers, and classmates as well as the American community who offered loved and support after the shooting. The concept was created by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Arizona.

Site plan of Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

Rendering of Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners (Courtesy Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission)

Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us features six experiential elements including an open green space dubbed the Breathing Field, a Memorial Grove, a Reflection Pool as well as a Belonging Bench and Community Arbor. The project was conceived by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners, who worked on the design for the new elementary school.

Once the memorial commission reviews the designs above, the chosen proposal will go before the Newtown Board of Selectman. A final decision will be announced in August.

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