An upcoming traveling exhibition put on by Friends of the High Line will invite cities and local artists to imagine what monuments should look like in the 21st century. New Monuments for New Cities, the inaugural project of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative, will feature 25 site-specific artworks set within five urban reuse projects across the United States and Canada. The public art showcase, running from February to October of next year, will take an important look at the role monuments have played in shaping cities and how they successfully speak to or, in some cases, misrepresent the people who live there. A diverse set of artists from each locale have been selected to submit proposals for the project in the form of posters. “As memorials to the deeply imbalanced history of the Western world are being torn down, the current moment demands critical thought and creativity about the monuments that adorn our cities,” said Chief Curator of High Line Art Cecilia Alemani in a statement. “These proposals from today’s artists offer an inspiring range of vision for how we might eternalize this point in society’s progress.” The posters or renderings will be projected for two to four months at a time within several major industrial reuse spaces in North America including the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas; Waller Creek in Austin; The 606 in Chicago; and The Bentway in Toronto. The exhibition will finish its international tour on the High Line next fall, coinciding with the High Line Network’s annual meeting and its first public symposium.
Posts tagged with "Memorials":
A very strange monument has popped up in Manhattan's Battery Park that alludes to a legendary UFO sighting in New York Harbor. Designed by Staten Island–based sculptor Joe Reginella, the curious memorial is dedicated to the six men aboard the tugboat Maria 120, which, according to Reginella, mysteriously vanished in July 1977. Reginella, who The New York Times called “the Banksy of monuments," crafted the NYC Tugboat Abduction monument out of weathered bronze in honor of local lore. Weighing a total of 300 pounds, it depicts a longshoreman kneeling beside an alien figure while looking up at the sky, or rather, an unidentified object flying away. A plaque covering the pedestal of the four-piece monument tells the story of the long-lost Maria 120 and is “dedicated in their memory by Local 333 and the Honorable Mayor Edward I. Koch.” According to Reginella, the urban legend is that the tugboat and its crew, who were patrolling the waters between Liberty Island and Battery Park one summer night, mysteriously disappeared. The crew saw a streak of light shoot through the night sky before an aircraft of sorts crashed into the harbor. The crew radioed the Coast Guard to let them know they’d try to tow the vessel to shore, but when the backup help arrived, both the Maria 120 and the aircraft they claimed to have seen were gone. This isn’t the first seemingly-sincere memorial Reginella has made to poke fun at New York’s many word-of-mouth myths. He’s also done public art pieces dedicated to the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede and the apparent octopus attack that happened on a ferry near Staten Island. His work isn’t just fun, however—it’s educational. Reginella put together a website, a documentary trailer, and souvenirs to supplement the tugboat abduction story. His logo for the project features the Statue of Liberty with a UFO hovering over it. Interested viewers can even take a Harbor Mystery Cruise to learn more about the oddities that have taken place in New York Harbor. Since Reginella has to pack up and transport The NYC Tugboat Abduction monument every day, it’s periodically on view across from the East Coast Memorial. Catch it before it disappears forever.
For those who want to take in history, design, and nightlife, Berlin is the place. Visiting and want to take in some of the sights and sounds? Or on a trip for the Bauhaus centennial? The city has something to offer everyone, and AN has compiled a list of what those with design on the brain should check out. The Chipperfield Kantine Joachimstrasse 11 10119 Berlin Mitte Rosenthaler Platz The office of English architect David Chipperfield is inside of a converted piano factory in Mitte. The redbrick building sits behind a spare, bright white courtyard where the architect has designed a beautifully detailed concrete box that also houses the restaurant Kantine. A reasonably priced menu of fresh local products served on spare Chipperfield-designed tableware—it is the best lunch spot in the city. Trouvé Schwedter Strasse 9 10119 Berlin trouve-berlin.de This store is a fantasyland of objects for architects and designers. Its owners, Michel Vincenot and Sabine Riedel, source lighting, seating, storage, tables, and graphics by preeminent European designers of the 20th century: Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni, Christian Dell, and German designers from the Bauhaus. This Wilhelm Wagenfeld glass tea service is 200 euros (approximately $233). Hotel Oderberger Oderberger Strasse 57 10435 Berlin hotel-oderberger.berlin A Neo-Renaissance-style hotel over a 19th-century public swimming pool makes this a very Berlin experience. It’s reasonably priced, and surrounded by cafes, bars, the trendy shopping street Kastanienallee, and Mauerpark. The park is also a unique “free park” where all sorts of public gatherings go on through the night, and the grass is untended, as Berliners don’t want chemicals used to maintain any public landscape. Topography of Terror topographie.de Berlin has multiple reminders of its fraught and charged history. Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum are powerful design statements, but equally powerful and less well known is the Topography of Terror Museum. On the site of what was once the headquarters of the Nazi Secret State Police, SS, and Reich Security, it was designed in 2010 by Ursula Wilms and landscape architect Heinz Hallmann. It is a truly frightening architectural experience. The Paris Bar Kantstrasse 152 10623 Berlin parisbar.net A bright red neon sign over the entrance announces The Paris Bar, the legendary Charlottenburg late night art bar. Its walls are covered with art from its regular patrons. Several years ago, it had to auction off its Martin Kippenberger for $3 million to pay back taxes. It’s the Odeon of Berlin, and its steak frites are the best in the city—but unlike its New York counterpart, it can’t make a decent martini. Pauly Saal at Jewish School for Girls Auguststrasse 11–13 10117 Berlin paulysaal.com maedchenschule.org Alexander Beer was the chief architect for the Jewish community of Berlin, and in 1927 he designed a girls’ school at Auguststrasse 11-13 in Mitte. It is a rare example of the modernist Neue Sachlichkeit style, with beautifully crafted materials. The school was eventually closed, Beer died in a concentration camp, and the building was confiscated by the government. The school was repurposed in 2012 as the Center for Art and Dining Culture, which is open to the public. Besides art galleries, it holds a New York delicatessen, Mogg & Melzer, and the pricey but excellent Pauly Saal Restaurant.
A show now up at New York City’s New Museum has invited a collection of artists to probe the fluid nature of transgender history (or hirstory, a portmanteau using the gender-neutral pronoun “hir”), and the role of monuments in America today. Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project, organized by artist Chris E. Vargas and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA), challenges how public monuments, even LGBTQ-oriented ones, can exclude or diminish the contributions of not only trans people, but of large and complex communities more generally. Rather than putting forward one design for a trans-oriented Stonewall memorial, the show invited a range of artists to propose monuments that would grow and evolve over time. This amorphous approach is a reaction to the concretization of transgender history as trans communities become more widely accepted in the U.S. In June of 2016, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn in New York City a National Monument, the first to specifically highlight the LGBTQ community. The Inn was the site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when a group of patrons at the bar fought back against a police raid on the establishment and demanded to be treated with respect. The riots are frequently cited as the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in the U.S. An existing memorial of the riots, the Gay Liberation Monument, sits in the park opposite the inn, but it, along with other public remembrances of the riots, have been accused of remembering only the roles of white, cisgender people in the LGBTQ rights movement and forgetting the role that trans women of color had in leading the riots. This perceived history of exclusion is part of what spurred Vargas to solicit a kaleidoscopic range of ideas. “Constructing one single monument is an inadequate way to represent this history,” Vargas said. “There are so many queer subjectivities that have a stake in this.” In the New Museum show, 13 different artists have contributed their ideas for a Stonewall monument, all of which are represented in a site model of Christopher Park in the center of the gallery. The proposals at the New Museum are all a far cry from the politely-posed statues of the Gay Liberation Monument. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt designed gleaming rodents to remember the riots, “that night the ‘gutter rats’ shone like the brightest gold.” Nicki Green put forth a pile of bricks, both a humble building material and the weapon thrown by Stonewall rioters at the police. Jibz Cameron imagined various scenes: dancing feet, the Stonewall’s notoriously dysfunctional toilet, and a “stiletto heel being slammed into the eye of a cop.” Chris Bogia opted for an abstracted facade filled with color and dangling with pearls, saying: "I want to make something that reminds every passerby that there was a riot in this place for LOVE and that it was full of color, and that we won." Vargas started MOTHA in 2013 as trans celebrities, like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner started to rise to national prominence. While a new era of trans visibility appeared to be dawning, Vargas noted that not everybody was getting included in the uplift: “It didn’t universally make things better in the trans community.” The visibility also began to harden some definitions, taking a range of identities, some of which had been purposefully vague, and standardizing them for a mass audience. MOTHA was a riposte to the notion that there could be any stable definition of what it meant to be trans and that certain trans people were more worthy of visibility than others. The conceptual museum was intentionally tongue-in-cheek, as much of a lampooning of the self-seriousness and strictures of genteel art institutions as a celebration of the diversity and range of queer culture. The campy institutional critique falls in the vein of the Guerrilla Girls, the feminist activist artists who for decades have used surreal imagery and savvy design to point out the discrepancies between how art institutions treat men and women. MOTHA's mission statement drives its campy sensibilities home:
The Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) is dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life. The Museum insists on an expansive and unstable definition of transgender, one that is able to encompass all transgender and gender-nonconforming art and artists. MOTHA is committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule that will enrich the transgender mythos by exhibiting works by living artists and honoring the hiroes and transcestors who have come before. Despite being forever under construction, MOTHA is already the preeminent institution of its kind.The artists participating in The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project take MOTHA’s subversive wit into the contemporary political climate, one in which trans communities are again both under attack and fighting back. President Trump recently announced that he is considering reversing rules protecting the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, while at the same time a historic amount of LGBTQ candidates are running for office and are poised to hold greater political power. Trans entertainers and performers are achieving recognition even as transgender people in the U.S. are being killed in record numbers. “There were always limitations in accepting and inclusion," Vargas said. “This political moment has highlighted the limitations.” Monuments have become a particular flashpoint in the U.S.'s fraught political climate, and Vargas says that he began the Stonewall project questioning the role of monuments. "I went into it with a real critical lens, but to be honest, I’ve become more understanding of the importance they play…There’s a way they can evolve over time." Vargas cited the influence of the work of the artist Isa Genzken, whose Ground Zero sculpture series imagined for the World Trade Center site in New York City a series of kaleidoscopic churches and discos instead of drab office towers. Like Genzken's sculptures, the Stonewall proposals embrace messy emotionality and exuberant vitality over orderly construction. The carnivalesque approach reflects the overall strategy for MOTHA, a roving institution that Vargas says will never have a permanent physical home. “At the heart of my approach to this project is an acknowledgment that once you start you canonizing, once you start making an official history, you have to start policing boundaries of what is or isn't considered transgender, and I don't think the identity category lends itself to that approach." Vargas added, "I don’t think it makes sense to have a traditional institution…It makes sense to have it exist as an evolving parasitic entity.” Which is not to say that Vargas wouldn’t want architects to imagine what a home for MOTHA could look like. “It’s been a dream of mine to have an architectural design competition for the institution,” Vargas said. Architects, take note. Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project will be on view at the New Museum in New York City through February 3, 2019.
A new monument dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King is coming to Boston—the city where they first met—and five teams are in the running to design it. This week, MLK Boston, the organization spearheading the effort, announced the finalists chosen for the project. The official memorial will sit in Boston Common, the oldest park in the United States, where King marched and addressed the public on April 23, 1965. Within the 50-acre space are other monuments and landmarks including the Shaw Memorial and the Parkman Bandstand. The Boston Capitol Building, the Freedom Trail, as well as the Black Heritage Trail also surround the 384-year-old site. To provide context for the new memorial, MLK Boston asked participants to create a site-specific permanent installation that would incorporate engraved phrases of the Kings’ seminal texts and speeches, and would use digital technology to enhance users’ experience. With the park serving as an everyday gathering place and home to many notable historic rallies, the memorial is meant to both inspire and engage the local community to reflect upon the pairs’ contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the future of equality, peace, and justice in the United States. Through October 16, the public can review each of the proposals and submit feedback. All designs are also on view at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square and the Bolling Building in Roxbury. Check out the five finalists below: Avenue of Peace Yinka Shonibare and Stephen Stimson Associates This memorial walk in Boston Common will center around a towering fountain covered in a colorful mosaic. Set inside an oval reflecting pool lined with black granite, the sculpture will include the names of the pioneering Civil Rights activists as well as an olive branch design, signifying their commitment to peace. Twenty-two inscribed benches will be built along the walk and an interactive app will be available for download, telling the individual stories of King and Scott before they met in Boston, as well as their life together afterward. Boston’s King Memorial Adam Pendleton, Adjaye Associates with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt Inspired by Dr. King’s 1968 speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” this design provides a panoramic view of Boston Common via an elongated overlook made of black stone. The open structure bridges serve as handicap accessible walking paths descending from Beacon Street, while the sloped stone sculptures on the lawn provide public seating and form a radical amphitheater, according to the architects. Engraved on the surface of each stone is text from the Kings’ most famous speeches. A digital platform for mobile devices will accompany the memorial and provide additional transcripts, audio, and images. The Embrace Hank Willis Thomas with MASS Design Group This stand-out sculpture symbolizes the love and commitment that Dr. King and Coretta Scott had for each other, while simultaneously reminding visitors of the power of protest in the fight against injustice. Set atop a gentle incline, the 22-foot-high arms of the couple will be built with a mirrored bronze finish, allowing the reflection of both passersby and the surrounding park to be seen in the sculpture. People can walk through The Embrace and inspect it close up as well. The site will be split into two plazas and form an axis from the Capitol, to the Parkman Bandstand, and to Dudley Square where a proposed MLK education center may be built. Empty Pulpit Monument Barbara Chase-Riboud Set inside an undulating landscape of rolling hills, the focal point of this design is a truncated stone pyramid that forms a beacon of light at night. The towering structure is constructed out of granite and bronze and is inspired by a 17th-century wood pulpit, symbolizing MLK’s silenced voice. Visitors can walk underneath the monument via a passageway to see engraved images detailing the diaspora. On the back of the bronze sculpture will be the Kings’ most powerful quote, according to the designer, “I have decided to stick with LOVE, HATE is too great a burden to bear…” Bronze plaques with other famous phrases by the pair will be embedded into the surrounding greenery. The Ripple Effects Wodiczko + Bonder/Maryann Thompson Architects with Walter Hood The Ripple Effects showcases the impact the Kings’ leadership has had on future generations and their role in the emancipatory process in Boston, across the U.S., and around the world. Centered around two beacon towers that serve as a reminder of the couples' continuing presence, the memorial's ground rises from the plaza with terraced green spaces for seating. It would culminate in an empty, shaded platform for gathering and reflection. The bridge above would lead visitors across the Common and feature inscribed text chronicling emancipatory events from the 19th century to today. Below the bridge will be a glass wall where visitors can literally and figuratively reflect on their own role in this ongoing process of emancipation and activism.
The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has announced an open call for a competition to design a memorial honoring the African Americans enslaved by the school upon its founding in 1693 until the Civil War. The public university welcomes conceptual ideas for a physical memorial that provides an area of community and contemplation for students, teachers, and staff to reflect on its former reliance on slave labor. The forthcoming memorial must engage with the school’s Historic Campus, a two-acre, diamond-shaped site situated around The Wren Building—designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren and the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. The adjacent President’s House and the Brafferton make up the heart of William & Mary’s colonial campus where the memorial may be constructed. “This memorial is such an important project for our community,” said current President Katherine A. Rowe in a press release. “African Americans have been vital to William & Mary since its earliest days. Even as they suffered under slavery, African Americans helped establish the university and subsequently maintained it.” The project falls under the larger umbrella of a long-term initiative by the university to research its own history with slavery. As the second oldest higher education institution in the country, it used slaves for not only construction, maintenance, and service, but for funding the college in general. King William and Queen Mary of England specified in a charter that the school would be built off the profits of slaves working in tobacco fields of Virginia and Maryland. The college even owned its own plantation, the Nottoway Quarter. In 2007, the William & Mary Student Assembly called for the college’s Board of Visitors (BOV) to create a commission to research the full depths of its contributions to slavery. They also asked that a public memorial be built as an apology and as a source of remembrance. Under the purview of The Lemon Project, which the BOV established in response, the school has been exploring these ties to slaveholding as well as its current relationship with the African-American community of Williamsburg, Virginia, for several years. Sponsored classes, research studies, symposia, and more have encouraged students and faculty to spread awareness and dive deep into the topic despite its difficult truths. The Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization (LPCOM) was founded out of this commitment after a fall 2014 course where students considered how a memorial design might convey the history and memory of the school’s racially fraught past. The committee has spent the last several years discussing how to best approach the memorial competition, which was announced last week. Interested participants must submit a design plan and a 500-word description of their concept by October 12 at 5 p.m. To learn more about the submission process, go here. A jury of alumni, staff, faculty, and students will choose three ideas to show President Rowe, upon which, if the design is ready, she will share with the BOV during its February 2019 meeting.
British architecture organization Architects for Social Housing (ASH) has published an alternative take on the Grenfell Tower memorial proposed by architecture studio JAA earlier this month. While JAA's proposal covered the shell of the burned-out building in slabs of black concrete, ASH's vision covers JAA's design with the names of public and private officials ostensibly responsible for the disaster. JAA's design was put forward by the architects as a conceptual exercise that had no backing from the government. As the architects said in Dezeen, the intent for such a design was to give enduring visibility to the tragedy and to encapsulate the event in public memory so that its lessons would not be forgotten. Reactions were mixed; one minister of parliament scorned it as "misery porn." The ASH proposal taps into public outrage surrounding the event. In its aftermath, many of those affected and others across the U.K. accused the local authorities and Prime Minister Theresa May of being insufficiently concerned about the wellbeing of the residents of public housing projects like Grenfell. A public inquiry into the causes of the 2017 disaster, in which 71 people died, started this summer, but no one has been held responsible.
Art Omi, an arts nonprofit based in upstate New York, has issued an open call for an upcoming exhibition that will explore the future of design for death. Exit Architecture: Speculations on the Hereafter will showcase proposals that present critical and speculative looks at both present and future visions of post-mortem architecture and “new ways of marking our exit” from this world. Organized by Warren James, Julia van den Hout, and Kyle May, it’s the first curated exhibition put together by Art Omi’s architecture program. Art Omi facilitates projects for architects that integrate experimental and innovative landscape, architecture, and art ideas. According to a press release, the purpose behind Exit Architecture is to uncover designs that go beyond traditional memorials and religious symbolism, and ones that react to the changing landscape of modern life on Earth. As the curators note: “The realities of the world today have imposed additional restrictions and opportunities on internment: rapid population growth, densifying urban areas, limited space, environmental concerns, and digitization—all factors that could lead architects to reimagine our own exit.” The chosen works will be on view at Art Omi’s campus in upstate New York at the Newmark Gallery in the Benenson Center from January 12 to March 3, 2019. It will then begin touring on March 15. Architects and architectural teams from any part of the world are invited to propose an idea for the exhibition. See submission guidelines here.
A final design has been unanimously selected for the Sandy Hook memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, the Newtown Bee reports. On Friday, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission announced that out of the top three concepts unveiled in May, The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of SWA Group will be presented in front of the city’s Board of Selectmen at the end of this week as the commission’s official recommendation. The board is slated to make the final approval this month. It’s been five years since the commission was created to establish a public memorial honoring the 26 victims and survivors of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From 189 international submissions, Waldo and Affleck’s vision for the 5-acre site became the top choice after a July 17th presentation by the three final teams. The Clearing features a sprawling landscape of winding pathways, trails, lakes, and flowery woodland centered around a young sycamore tree planted in a fountain. The names of the victims are prominently carved into the fountain's stone edge. The latest design iteration, which the team updated for the most recent presentation, includes an added manmade pond and an alternative entrance and pavilion. It also includes more details on the proposed materials for the site. Waldo and Affleck are based out of SWA Group’s San Francisco office. The design team also includes Justin Winters of SWA/Balsley, Jim Garland, AIA, of Fluidity, as well as Jason Loiselle, principal at Sherwood Design Engineers and his colleague, design engineer Gabe Duque. The Board of Selectmen will meet Friday, August 9 to review the commission’s recommendation.
Today, the onePULSE Foundation launched its Ideas Generator, an open call for designs for a permanent memorial and museum dedicated to the 49 lives lost in the 2016 Pulse nightclub tragedy. The June 12th attack in which a gunman opened fire in the Orlando nightclub, killing dozens and injuring 68 others, was considered a terrorist attack on the United States and an act of hatred against the LGTBQ+ community. The planned memorial and museum is set to honor the lives affected by this event, including the survivors, victims’ families, first responders, and healthcare professionals. According to onePulse Foundation board member Hilary Lewis, today’s announcement is meant to spark a national conversation on the need for the project and how it might turn the site of a crime scene into a place of hope and reflection. "We are looking for the most innovative way to combine the idea of a memorial, a museum, and a gathering place,” Lewis told The Architect’s Newspaper. “The need is for something uplifting and we’re looking to create a space that moves the discussion forward in a positive way, while also helping us understand how to make the world a better, more inclusive place.” The Ideas Generator invites people from around the world to present ideas related to architecture, landscape, urbanism, and artistic intervention. The open call asks for both rough ideas and polished proposals. The Foundation recently opened its interim memorial in Orlando, which features interactive wall exhibits, lighted benches and a steel fence where visitors can attach messages and mementos. The design and program of the new memorial and museum will possibly feature these elements as well, but the Foundation has yet to release an official RFP for the actual project. “We recognize that the greatest talent out there may come from people who we haven’t heard of yet,” said Lewis. “If someone wants to submit a conceptual idea, whether it’s a sketch on a napkin or a poem, we’d like to see it. The Ideas Generator is designed to open the lines of communication so we can figure out the best way to develop the RFP and make sure we’re on the right track.” Last fall, the Foundation hosted a public, online survey pertaining to the look and feel of the future memorial, as well as what issues it should address and whom it should honor. Answers from the family members of the victims and survivors were given top consideration. Many cited the Vietnam War Memorial and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and the National September 11 Memorial in New York as inspirations for the future Pulse project. Potential plans to demolish the former nightclub or keep it standing are also discussed. You can read their individual thoughts in the survey here. The Foundation will be accepting ideas through August 31 and begin developing an RFP this fall. To learn more about the Foundation's vision for the project as well as Points to Consider when submitting ideas, go here.
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. 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. 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. 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.
Absence is not abstract. It is felt and perceived. Absence implicates all of us inasmuch as it confounds the very writing of our stories. To see absence is to have our limits revealed, not as if in a mirror, but in a manner that shows that we are entangled with distant tethers that keep our bodies, our histories, in check. Absence, when made visible, is not observed immediately. It takes time. The April 26 opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, is perhaps one such catalyst for the effacement of the visitor with respect to the racial terror that led to the loss of thousands of lives through lynching. Lynching victims who were burned alive, hanged, shot—murdered—in and along the towns and byways of our nation from 1877 until 1950, are documented in this memorial initiated by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Such violence continues today in the form of excessive imprisonment; by the murders of black women and men by the police; by the enforcement of state-sanctioned economic violence. By crafting spaces in which the subtractive is both a tool and a frame, the design of this memorial signals the recuperative agency of building as a means to affect the erasable and irascible conditions that established and purvey hatred, fear, and ignorance in this country. Here, looking away is not conscionable, as it moves against the habitus of memory, where our own individual pasts intersect with the Past. That the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum are realized in this, the 50th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, is indeed an extraordinary feat indebted to the efforts of many individuals that came before. However, I would be remiss in not reminding readers that in recent reportage, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone, there is scant mention of the architects. During the spectacle of the opening ceremony, EJI’s Executive Director, Bryan Stevenson, acknowledged builders, contractors, laborers, and “local” architects—but did not name the project architects, MASS Design Group. Only on the EJI website can we find mention that the Initiative had the “assistance” of MASS Design Group. It feels purposeful, and we are thus left to speculate. I am left wondering: Are architects supposed to fade away in the fashioning of a memorial? I can think of recent examples for which this is clearly not the case. What has been wrought in other locations, including Washington, D.C., Berlin, Johannesburg, New York City, and Birmingham, all speak through their authors. And, in varying degrees, formal aspects of each of these memorial spaces are present now in Montgomery. Memorials render ghosts. And Boston-based MASS Design’s work with the EJI on the design and building of this structure is no less haunted by the iniquities of American history. With distant views of limpid hills and a semiformal state capitol town center with its empty shops, deserted lots, 59 Confederate markers, and recent loft conversions, the Memorial for Peace and Justice is adjacent, without irony, to the storefront of the State of Alabama Office of Pardons and Paroles Day Reporting Center. From the street below, the memorial structure is partially indiscernible due to its horizontal profile cutting across the sightline, but it may also be read as an empty pedestal through and on which the lives of so many passed, passed away, disappeared. One climbs farther up the hill alongside a boundary wall upon which a series of chronological narratives is posted to convey the story of “Why here?” and “Why now?” The manifestations of slavery, of incipient racism that persist today, are described as a backdrop to an unfolding of both landscape and architecture as marked sites for unceasing brutality. We are soon confronted by a bronze sculpture of humans in chains by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. The signs begin too high to be read easily and meet our eyes as we climb the hill. A sharp corner, and one rises again to the structure while unfortunately overlooking the conclusion of the memorial space one floor below. There is no fixed entrance, per se, except a momentary pause with a large fire extinguisher. Stepping onto a timber floor, one is immediately surrounded by a dense array of body-size steel casks hung from pipes that disappear into a paneled metal ceiling. One moves cautiously through a grid of “bleeding” Corten steel containers, each incised with the name of the county and names accompanied by dates, including those unknown, of the lynched. The floor gradually descends as the casks remain above our heads; their intact volumes remain whole. By moving downward, one returns into the ground. The horizon has been excised. Gravity is idle. A series of narratives printed on thin metal strips is hung in a similar manner to the initial chronologies, describing in the briefest of ways the events of individual lynchings. The blunt quotidian language, their facticity, arrests our movements. At the next corner, one is presented with two very large indictments. A cascade of water pushes across the adjacent wall, merging with, not obscuring, an extended text. The temperature changes. Two choices are apparent: Climb a ramp or stair into the center of the quadrangle or leave. The empty center, while perhaps disguised as a space of confrontation, is more like a cloister in which condemnation is subdued, internalized; here it is possible to see across through the casks while observing others. It is not a sanctum. Greeting one’s unceremonial departure from the memorial upon moving outside, another sliver of text is located across from the pipes and pumps of the interior waterfall. This is not as much a “door of no return,” as merely a way out. This non-exit merges with an unmarked landscape of horizontal metal casks, akin to those held inside the structure—a topology of loss. Despite being worrisome for those who might wish to touch one of the steel containers after a hot day, one walks between their seemingly geographic order(s) locating states and counties, and names. Farther on, a series of bronzes by Dana King, depicting Rosa Parks and her heroic companions leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, intersects the path. A small circular garden of mushroom-like concrete stools is sited nearby and is unlike anything seen elsewhere, with no explanation as to its role. One moves across on pathways above, around, and below another bronze, this one by Hank Willis Thomas, spelling bodies of containment, of stability falling away. With the building of such thresholds for historical reckoning, the arc of our knowing also asserts unknowing; absence lingers. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum attest to our own entanglements with reconciliation and truth. Memorials, like museums, are structures that attempt to keep us in their grasp as long as possible, allowing for the disclosure of our interior selves with multiple worlds. Such “new worlds” are partially uncovered at the intersection of reflection and remembrance, yet allow for and point to the rupture of what our passages have been and continue to be.