Critics of the upcoming UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre have cried out to the government over its prominent location in London's Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament. The Jewish Chronicle reported that a cross-party group of Jewish leadership worries the $58 million project “conveys an impression of national guilt” and that it’s too close to the Imperial War Museum, which has held a long-standing permanent exhibition on the Holocaust. Despite these complaints, Sir David Adjaye, the British architect behind the memorial, is fiercely defending his vision, and several advocates, including three major Shoah charities, are backing him. Adjaye told ES Magazine this week that the poignant memorial needs to sit next to Parliament because “Holocaust-deniers have festered” in the country in recent years. Most notably, Britain's Labour Party leadership has been accused of allegedly stirring up anti-Semitism in national politics. “History has taught us that we need a mechanism to remind us of what we did and why we did it,” Adjaye told ES. Some say the project needs to be downsized or that it isn’t necessary altogether because of Britain’s involvement in liberating the oppressed from concentration camps during World War II. Critics also think some of the money for the memorial should be allocated to enhancing the efforts of the nearby Imperial War Museum, which has also repeatedly called for a rethink of the project's design and location as it gets set to unveil its newest Holocaust-related digital galleries in 2020. But Adjaye and supporters believe the new memorial is crucial to further honoring the memory of those who died and that the proposed site is “hugely appropriate.” Adjaye Associates won a competition to design the structure last year after submitting a proposal with Israeli designer Ron Arad and landscape firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman. Their vision for a bronze, sculpture-like memorial sporting 23 stark fins beat out teams from Zaha Hadid Architects, MASS Design Group, Anish Kapoor, Studio Gang, Foster + Partners, and more. The competition was put together by the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation and backed by former British Prime Minister David Cameron.
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Today officials announced Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects as the winners of an international competition to design a Holocaust memorial in London. The project, officially known as the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, will honor the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, as well as the Roma, gay, and disabled people who were killed by the Nazis. Elected officials, rabbis, Holocaust survivors and their descendants presided over the design unveiling for the memorial and learning space, which will sit at the southern end of Victoria Tower Gardens, right next to the Houses of Parliament. The spaces will encourage reflection and understanding by educating visitors on the Holocaust and antisemitism and in turn using this understanding to explore other forms of hatred, such as Islamophobia and homophobia, as well as examine institutions' role in preventing hatred. The idea for a new memorial and education center was first floated in January 2015, following a survey that found growing public ignorance of the Holocaust and dissatisfaction with the memorial in Hyde Park. The design competition launched the following year, in September, and the ten finalists were announced this February. The labyrinthine design is meant to encourage individual reflection. At the end of each pathway, 23 tall bronze fins representing the 22 countries of origin of Jewish Holocaust victims will face visitors, who will enter the chamber alone. The routes eventually funnel into the contemplative Threshold. This segues into the underground Learning Centre, which includes a space where survivors' stories are shared, as well as reflective chamber with eight bronze panels which will be called the "Contemplation Court." “The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time," said Sir David Adjaye, principal of Adjaye Associates, in a prepared statement. "Our approach to the project has been to reveal these layers and not let them remain buried under history. To do so, we wanted to create a living place, not just a monument to something of the past. We wanted to orchestrate an experience that reminds us of the fragility and constant strife for a more equitable world." The memorial is Adjaye Associates' latest high-profile public commission. In the U.S., the firm is best known for designing The National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., and it was just tapped to design an interactive spy museum in New York. The building's siting was meant to provoke intrigue from afar. On the approach, visitors will see the memorial's fins just over a green landform. The structure dialogues with a likeness of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Burghers of Calais, as well as the Buxton Memorial, three other statues and sites that interrogate injustice. Gustafson Porter + Bowman is collaborating with Adjaye and Arad on the landscape design.
The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation has announced its shortlist of ten teams to design the new National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent the Palace of Westminster and in the heart of London. Whittled down from almost one hundred international entries, the finalists’ proposals are currently traveling on display throughout the U.K. while the foundation proceeds with the interview phase. The competition, announced in September of 2016, seeks a team to create a “sensitively-designed Memorial and Learning Centre that is emotionally powerful while offering visitors an opportunity to deepen their understanding of humanity’s darkest hour.” The brief calls for a distinct memorial adjacent to the River Thames with a subterranean education center. The building’s construction is estimated to cost £40 million with the British government allocating £50 million in public funds to see the project through to completion (the £50 million figure also includes the creation and operation of the Centre, as well as other related education efforts). The education facility is said to “not be a conventional exhibition or teaching [center]” and will extend 2,650 square meters under the park’s lawn. The chosen architect will have to contend with a complex program that must balance with the historic nature of the site. Furthermore, one member of the House of Commons has cited concerns that construction in London’s public parkland might set a dangerous precedent for future development of the city’s open space, among other potential issues. Zaha Hadid Architects with artist Anish Kapoor A bronze monolith sculpted by Anish Kapoor and a Zaha Hadid Architects–designed structure would extend from a sunken courtyard and designate the National Holocaust Memorial as striking new landmark in London. John McAslan + Partners with MASS Design Group Drawing from Jewish traditions, this team has developed a sensitive design approach for the engagement of visitors to the site. Studio Libeskind with Haptic Architects Studio Libeskind is familiar with crafting sites to memorialize the Holocaust, having designed several such buildings across Europe. This effort recalls the similar abstraction of form and space characteristic of those earlier works. heneghan peng architects with design agency Bruce Mau Design Proposing a structure that obscures the senses at some junctures and heightens them at others, this design focuses on the phenomenological experiences of its visitors. Foster + Partners with artist Michal Rovner This proposal is arranged as a long axial path for contemplation and sensory stimulation; visitors would descend a ramp underground before reemerging up a long flight of stairs into the park. Diamond Schmitt Architects with landscape architect Martha Schwartz Partners Using a simple ovular shape, this design integrates both the memorial and learning center into one sweeping gesture. Allied Works with artist Robert Montgomery Focusing acutely on building a powerful narrative for the site, this heterogenous team led by Allied Works includes sculptor and poet Robert Montgomery, who adds his incisive urban art-form to the proposal. Caruso St John with artist Rachel Whiteread This design focuses on the contextual elements of the site and the dramatic unfolding of space through sculptural cast glass and filtered light. Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects with David Morley Architects Located in a highly stylized landscape, the team lead by Finnish firm Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects has designed a distinct procession for visitors to experience. Adjaye Associates with Ron Arad Architects Using repeating geometric shapes to draw the visitor to the entrance of the center, the designers aim to emphasize the many layers of the British experience of the Holocaust. The jury is composed of many experts in Jewish Studies, architecture, public land use, and public works, and will select a winner later this summer to develop a final design. Jury: Sir Peter Bazalgette (Jury Chair) - Chair United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Chair, ITV Board The Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE - Journalist Alice M. Greenwald - President and CEO of National September 11 Memorial and Museum Loyd Grossman CBE - Chair, Royal Parks Ben Helfgott MBE - Holocaust Survivor, Honorary President, ’45 Aid Society and President, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP - Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Natasha Kaplinsky - Broadcaster Rt Hon Sadiq Khan - Mayor of London Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis - Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Sally Osman - Director of Royal Communications Dame Julia Peyton-Jones DBE - Former Director of the Serpentine Galleries Paul Williams OBE - Director, Stanton Williams Architects Malcolm Reading - Competition Director and Advisor to the Jury