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: Dattner Architects (Summer 2007)


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Goodwill Games Swimming and Diving Complex, New York, NY (Photo: Peter Mauss/ESTO)


COMPETITIONS: What led you to choose architecture as a profession?

 

RICHARD DATTNER: It’s a little like Dustin Hoffman in the movie The Graduate. I already wanted to be an architect in the seventh grade, when I was building architectural models. When I was in high school, somebody whispered to me “electronics.” “Since architects don’t make money, you should study something that has a real future.” So I actually went to MIT thinking I would become an electrical engineer. I realized you couldn’t see any of those little things zipping around—the electrons, etc. My next door dorm-mates, actually three architects from New York,--Andy Blackman, Peter Samton and Jordan Gruzen, were three years ahead of me and were having a lot of fun—building models, beautiful girls came in and out of their dormitory rooms. I thought, “I’ll have what they’re having.” Luckily, at MIT, the first year is the same for whatever your major will ultimately be; so I switched back to my original love. From there, I never looked back.

 

COMPETITIONS: MIT was different than Harvard when you were there. At Harvard, where they had very strong deans—Gropius and Sert—everything that the students turned out looked pretty much the same. At MIT it was different.

 

RD: MIT was a kind of ‘Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom.’ They had some wonderful people, some of whom were rejects from Harvard, .i.e. Joseph Hudnut, who had been the dean at Harvard. Other great professors included Lewis Mumford, Kenzo Tange, Leonardo Ricci, Georgy Kepes, Richard Filipowski, Lawrence Anderson, etc.

 

COMPETITIONS: What effect did your stay at the Architecture Association in London have on you?

 

RD: During my junior year at MIT, I had an opportunity to take the middle year of my 5-year stay at MIT at the AA. There I had a similarly interesting roster of people—James Stirling and many of the British “brutalists.” It was a good antidote to America. In those days in America, Edward Durrell Stone was the hero, producing a kind of “surface architecture,” which by the way is probably going on today. So what goes around, comes around. When I was in London in 1957/58, London was still recovering from the war—there were still bombed-out sites. So architects were much more brutal and honest—Corbusier was a hero. The London County Council was doing incredible social housing, some of it based on the Unité d’habitation of Corbu. There was a lot of fascinating school design going on. As an interesting time, it was a real kind of antidote to the postwar, feelgood (trend) then current in the United States.

 

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Courtlandt City Hall, Courtlandt, NY - Winning Competition entry, 1976 (unbuilt)

COMPETITIONS: When you started your own firm in New York, you were doing a lot of playgrounds. Is there some kind of logical progression from that genre to designing schools?

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