THE UK GOVERNMENT has selected Adjaye Associates, Ron Arad Architects and landscape architects Gustafson Porter + Bowman to design a new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London. David Adjaye will serve as lead designer of the project. Commissioned by the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, the memorial honors “the six million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, and all other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, gay and disabled people.”

The site of the memorial inspired the concept for the design. Located next to British Parliament in Westminster, Victoria Tower Gardens is already home to statues recognizing injustice and the need and oppose it. Adjaye describes the site as a “park of Britain’s conscience.” The existing history helped hone Adjaye’s vision for the new memorial.

“The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time,” said Adjaye in a 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 complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time. …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.” — David Adjaye

Honoring and documenting a painful history, the memorial’s contemporary vision makes a moving architectural statement:

    The design concept takes visitors on a journey that culminates in confronting the 23 tall bronze fins of the Memorial, the spaces in between representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were destroyed during the Holocaust. Entering the Memorial would be a sensory experience. While the outside and inside space emphasises collective gathering, the 23 bronze fins require the visitor to enter in an isolated, solitary way, each pathway planned as a different experience. Each path eventually leads down into the Threshold – a generous hall which acts as a place of contemplation and transition into the Learning Centre below ground. The Learning Centre includes a “hall of testimonies” and a “Contemplation Court”: a silent, reflective space with eight bronze panels. On leaving the Memorial, the circulation route ensures visitors will emerge to see the classic uninterrupted view of Parliament – and the reality of democracy.


Rendering of the underground threshold where the David Adjaye-designed UK Holocaust Memorial gives way to co-located Learning Centre. | Adjaye Associate/UK Holocaust Memorial

 

BASED IN LONDON and New York, Adjaye has designed cultural and civic institutions around the world. The architect is creating a new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem, designing an interactive spy museum in New York, and envisioned the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. In London, his projects have included Idea Stores (community libraries), Marian Goodman Gallery, Morning Lane Arches retail corridor, and One Berkeley Street, a mixed-used redevelopment project currently underway.

Described as a national landmark next to the Houses of Parliament, the Holocaust memorial in many ways parallels Adjaye’s most well-known project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Smithsonian museum opened in September 2016, paying tribute on a grand scale to the contributions and experiences African Americans. Emphasizing that the history of black people in the United States is central to American history, the museum examines a significant period during which African Americans were denied their humanity and basic rights.

Situated at the epicenter of American cultural and civic life, the location of the African American museum on the National Mall is rife with symbolism. Constructed on land where slave markets once operated, NMAAHC is adjacent to the Washington Monument, and in the sight lines of the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. The White House and Martin Luther King Jr. and Jefferson memorials are nearby.

At the Holocaust Memorial in London, a Learning Centre will provide context through storytelling and facts about the Holocaust. The center will “explore anti-Semitism, extremism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia and other forms of hatred and prejudice in society today.” The presence of the memorial in the shadow of government is expected to remind British leaders and wider society about the ills of hatred, lessons of history, and the importance of prioritizing respect and equality.

The presence of the memorial in the shadow of government is expected to remind British leaders and wider society about the ills of hatred, lessons of history, and the importance of prioritizing respect and equality.

THE INTERNATIONAL DESIGN COMPETITION attracted 92 entries and 10 finalists were selected, including a collaboration between Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid Architects. Adjaye’s winning design is subject to final planning approval and the memorial is expected to be completed in 2021.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation and the competition jury said the decision was unanimous and called Adjaye’s team “highly skilled and passionate.”

He said: “Their ability to use architecture to create an emotionally powerful experience, their understanding of the complexity of the Holocaust and their desire to create a living place as well as a respectful memorial to the past and its surroundings, will combine to create a new national landmark for generations to come.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
“David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material,” was published to coincide with a major exhibition exploring David Adjaye’s architectural designs, which was organized by the Haus der Kunst in Berlin and on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. Several years ago, Adjaye traveled all over Africa, researching the continent’s architecture and published a seven-volume tome titled “African Metropolitan Architecture.” A compact version of the groundbreaking project was recently released. “Making a Museum in the 21st Century,” featuring the architect, offers invaluable insight about the future of museum design. Also consider “David Adjaye: Constructed Narratives” and the forthcoming “David Adjaye: Living Spaces.”