Foster, Adjaye, Libeskind, Hadid or Kapoor – who will build London's Holocaust Memorial?
27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day. On that date in 2016 the UK government announced its plans to build a National Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Palace of Westminster. On Friday (January 27) the ten shortlisted submissions for the memorial were revealed.
Big name architects such as Zaha Hadid, Foster + Partners, Studio Libeskind, Adjaye Associates and Caruso St John, are joined by other prominent cultural figures, including Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread and Simon Schama.
The brief outlines the proposed monument “as a place for everyone to come to remember the Holocaust, as well as a focal point for annual national commemorations," as well as asserting "the United Kingdom’s commitment to stand up against prejudice and hatred.”
A more detailed brief outlines the need for a learning centre “that is emotionally powerful while offering visitors an opportunity to deepen their understanding of humanity’s darkest hour."
However, don’t expect a simple museum display. Instead this space “will use the architecture, design and interpretation to set the Memorial in context and to convey the magnitude of what happened, whilst ensuring visitors leave the site with a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and its victims.”
In response, Zaha Hadid Architects and Anish Kapoor have submitted a meteorite-like sculpture resting atop a subterranean learning centre, beside a neatly arranged grove of cypress trees. "Meteorites, mountains and stones are often at the centre of places of reflection, especially in the Jewish tradition. They call on the vastness of nature to be a witness to our humanity," they explain.
Foster + Partners, working with the Israeli artist Michal Rovner, as well as the British historian Simon Schama, has drawn up plans for a train-track-like ramp, also leading down into an underground chamber.
Adjaye architects, in collaboration with the Israeli architect and designer Rob Arad, has created a closely integrated memorial and learning centre. “Through a careful sequencing of highly immersive spaces that intentionally juxtapose moments of solitary engagement with moments of collective gathering,” says this team. “Our design envelops the visitor in the physical, intellectual and emotional experience of the Holocaust.”
Studio Libeskind and Haptic Architects also plan to dig into the grounds of Victoria Tower Gardens, creating a “wide timber ramp, passing through this plane into the underground,” say the architects. “Once inside, the visitor descends into darkness along a continuous trajectory, the path illuminated by light cast from the contents of the exhibitions.
Rachel Whiteread and Caurso St John, working with the UK artist Marcus Taylor, has, by contrast, submitted a two part plan: “a cast, translucent sculpture above ground and a series of large chambers below ground,” says the team. “The sculpture [which appears to mimic Victoria Tower Gardens’ neo-Gothic Buxton Memorial] brings natural light into the largest and most memorable of these spaces – the ‘Hall of Voices’ – where visitors will hear the accounts of Holocaust survivors and discover directly the network of lives, places and emotional bonds that were destroyed.”
The jury plan to announce the winning proposal this summer. For more breathtaking works of contemporary architecture order a copy of MAD Works by MAD Architects; for greater insight into site-specific artworks get Art & Place.