“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

Design for London’s New Holocaust Memorial Is Unveiled

An impression of the winning proposal. The location, in a park near the Houses of Parliament, has attracted criticism. Credit Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

LONDON — A team led by David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British architect behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, has won a competition to design a new Holocaust memorial in London.

The winning proposal envisages an elevated memorial site in Victoria Tower Gardens, a park near the Houses of Parliament, and an underground learning center dedicated to the six million Jewish people killed in the Holocaust.

“The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time,” Mr. Adjaye said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our approach to the project has been to reveal these layers and not let them remain buried under history.”

The design for the memorial features 23 bronze “fins” that jut out of the earth, with the spaces in between them representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were devastated during the Holocaust. A path through the structure leads visitors down narrow stairs into the exhibition space below ground.

An international competition for the design drew 92 submissions. Mr. Adjaye’s team, which includes the Israeli architect Ron Arad and the landscape architecture company Gustafson Porter & Bowman, was unanimously selected by a jury that included the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan; the chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, Ephraim Mirvis; the president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, Alice M. Greenwald; and Holocaust survivors.

Peter Bazalgette, chairman of the U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation, was the head of the jury. In a news statement, he praised Mr. Adjaye’s team for creating an “emotionally powerful experience” and for their “understanding of the complexity of the Holocaust and their desire to create a living place as well as a respectful memorial.”


A subterranean exhibition space in the memorial will address anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and prejudice. Credit Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

The location of the project, which will receive 50 million pounds, or about $66 million, of public funding, has drawn criticism from neighboring institutions, local residents and government officials, however.

This month, the Imperial War Museum, which is about a mile from the memorial’s proposed site, called for a reconsideration of the plans for the education center. The museum expressed concern that the center would compete with its own Holocaust gallery, due to open in 2020.

The plans for the memorial’s learning center include the recorded testimonies of 112 Holocaust survivors. As well as commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and addressing anti-Semitism, the subterranean center would also examine hatred and prejudice in other forms, including racism and Islamophobia.

“The gardens are extensively used by residents, visitors to London, and the many thousands who work nearby, including those working in the Palace of Westminster,” the letter said. “They are an oasis of calm, enjoyed as a place of exercise, play, picnics, sunbathing and dog walking.”

Peter Bottomley, a Conservative lawmaker who was a signatory to the letter, said in a telephone interview that, while he supported the idea of a prominent memorial, he questioned the chosen site. “If everyone saw the information, everyone would agree that the Imperial War Museum is the better proposal,” he said, referring to his preferred location. “If you combined the elements of both, that’s a very good idea.”

Citing security concerns and the impact on the park of additional visitors, Mr. Bottomley said he was calling for a review of how the site came to be selected.

The memorial is scheduled to open in 2021, although it is yet to receive approval from building regulators.

New York Times

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