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: Silvio d’Ascia (2013) with Olha Romaniuk

with Olha Romaniuk

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COMPETITIONS: You moved from Italy to France in 1993. What was your decision behind moving and starting your architecture firm in Paris?

 

Silvio D'Ascia: Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be an artist and, ever since the first time I went to Paris when I was 12 years old, it was a childhood dream of mine to live in such an artistic city. After receiving my degree in Italy, I came to live in Paris and was supposed to stay only for a few months. This temporary visit turned into an opportunity for me to stay and work in France.

 

COMPETITIONS: How do you find the architectural scene in France compared to Italy?

SD: The main difference between Italy and France is that in Italy there was not a competition system in place in the 1990s. Every country in Europe looked at France as a place where it was possible for a young architect to participate in and win competitions, as well as be paid for competition participation and have a chance to do research even if the competition fee was not so high. During the first year of my firm in Paris, we participated in 9 public competitions. It was a great opportunity and my main reason behind the decision to stay in Paris.

 

COMPETITIONS: Were competitions always a part of your firm’s strategy to acquire new work or has that been a fairly recent development?


SD: Competitions have always been important for my own career as they paved the way for me in many areas. In the beginning, during my first four or five years in Paris, I was associated with another architect and we won several competitions together. And in 1999, as we went our separate ways, I entered an anonymous international competition for the Palais de Congrès, going against architects like Richard Rogers and Rafael Vinoly, with Norman Foster as the president of the jury. Massimiliano Fuksas won the competition and I received a second prize. This competition marked the beginning of Silvio d’Ascia Architecture.

One and a half years later, after the above-mentioned project, we won another competition for the Turin (Italy) high-speed railway station. This was the beginning of the next chapter of my professional experiences and projects. The Turin high-speed railway station has brought many other commissions in the railway and transport sectors for the firm.

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Congress Center of Rome (1999 design competition)

 

COMPETITIONS: How do you decide which competitions to go after?

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