Sandy Hook Memorial


Winning entry (image ©SWA Group)

 

Commemorating the deaths of 26 victims of a well-publicized school shooting is no small chore. But because of the tragic events at its elementary school in 2012, the village of Sandy Hook has achieved national prominence as a symbol of the gun violence afflicting the nation. Although it is almost impossible to bring closure to such an event, the community did determine that the establishment of a memorial would at least be a positive step in that direction. To arrive at such an important issue as a design for the memorial, it was determined that an international design competition was a logical path to follow.

 

Although this was not a competition for a large structure, interest was understandably high in the design community, with the result that 189 international submissions were received from around the world. For subjects such as this, a single symbolic structure was hardly the answer. The closest any of the three second-stage finalists came to employing this approach was SWA, the winner, who located a tree of life at the very center of the focal point of their submission—a large pond. But there was more to their design than that. Instead of locating the main event near the parking lot, they created a substantial journey along a pathway crossing two water features with pedestrian bridges, before arriving at the center of a large circular plan. Then one realizes that this was not just about the memorial itself, but fulfilling a larger purpose with an attractive park for walkers and joggers, an additional purpose added to those of contemplation and paying homage.

 

The two other finalists chose different approaches. A team composed of Teri Kwant (AIGE NAI), Joan MacLeod (ASLA) and Julia McFadden (AIA) with Alex Felson (ASLA) had a circular plan, but with various theme stages along the way before arriving at the main destination, the Memorial Grove. One of the stations, “the breathing field,” consisted of a large floral area within a circular walkway, somehow reminiscent of Tolstoy’s impressive burial marker in Yasnaya Polyana, a small mound only adorned with flowers. This was a design clearly focused on the mind and senses.

 

The final finalist, Justin Arleo from Arizona, concentrated his commemorative design on a bosque of trees, arranged in a very linear fashion, like what might have been imagined by landscape architect, Dan Kiley. Here, the processional was located in a covered wooded area. In a departure from the other finalists, access to this memorial site was directly available from the parking area.

 

 

Winner

SWA Group, led by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck with SWA/Balsley, Jim

Garland, AIA of Fluidity and Sherwood Design Engineers.

San Francisco/New York

 


Winning entry (image ©SWA Group)

 

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Recent Archive Updates

Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.

 

 

Interview: Steven Holl (Summer 1998)

with Stanley Collyer

portrait 30% copy SHA_02_PAN view_extra long
Mumbai City Museum Competition Winner (2014)

 

COMPETITIONS: What was the first competition you ever participated in?

 

HOLL: I did a competition in 1972 for the Niagara Falls Rainbow Plaza Gardens—which I did in my bedroom in San Francisco. I had just graduated from the University of Washington and had moved to San Francisco, where I was working for Backen Aarigoni and Ross. I think I got fourth place, or something like that in that competition, and it gave me incredible encouragement to proceed in my own design work. It was published in architecture plus by Peter Blake. The article was called “Back from Niagara.” That was the first time I ever got published.

 

COMPETITIONS: The last time we met you had just returned from San Francisco, where you came in a very close second in the San Francisco Mission Bay planning competition (COMPETITIONS, Vol. 8, #2). You teamed up with George Hargreaves, a landscape architect who is not known for just filling in the blanks.

 

HOLL: Whenever you go after a competition, you try to put the best team together and envision winning it. I thought that George would be a great collaborator out there in San Francisco—he lives on a hill which overlooks the Mission Hill project—I thought that if all things went well, he would be the best person to work with. We collaborated back and forth by fax and met a few times. I think he was very partial to some of the ideas we had; he helped us to develop them. There was a good back-and-forth going on.

 

COMPETITIONS: I understand that one of the major concerns of the jury was phasing, since the plan could not be realized all at once. One member of the jury characterized the first phase as “brilliant.”

 

HOLL: I thought our phasing scheme was very good—and this was George’s idea—in the sense that we could landscape and make an incredible public space in the first phase. I thought it was the strongest part of our scheme. I think one has to look at it carefully to understand it. That was actually the strongest part of our scheme.

 

model view from SE Glasgow SHA 14-01 7506

Glasgow SHA 14-01 6922 Completed-003
Holl model (upper left) for Glasgow School of Art Competition (2009); Completion (2013)

 

COMPETITIONS: Many of your recent projects have been additions to buildings—Cranbrook, Pratt Institute, the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Additions can be almost like infill; but in other respects, a question may arise, as in Cranbrook, as to how much you may feel obligated to defer to Saarinen’s design. How does the existing architecture play a role?

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