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: Axel Schultes (Spring 1997)

 

with Stanley Collyer

 


Bundeskanzleramt Berlin Competition (1996); Completion (2000) Photo: courtesy Schultes Frank Architekten

 

COMPETITIONS: In our last conversation, we talked about the whole issue of Berlin's identity and what approach one should use in reconstructing the urban fabric between East and West—where the wall used to be.

 

Axel Schultes: Maybe I learned something during a recent lecture I gave in Palermo (Italy). Afterwards, some German specialists in philosophy and German thinking—brilliant people, I must say—came up to me and said, 'What you said about Berlin and what you are doing there with the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleiamt), for us is what Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin talked about, especially when they looked at Italy and the cities in Italy. We noticed immediately in your work that (same) issue of porosity.' Both used this term: Benjamin wrote a small article on Naples, and Bloch wrote about Italy as a whole.

 

We always had a tendency to avoid the term, 'transparency.' Transparency is usually the use of glass to make buildings less alienating to someone outside. But for us, glass is no material to create spaces; so transparency as we see it is depths of spaces or layering. Porosity is something much more precise—what we strive for. We wanted the same effect in Friedrichstrasse (Interior Mall): it should not be this close-up thing of the Galeries Lafayette (Jean Nouvel) or Ungers, where you only have some holes in it. Porosity for us is like a sponge—to enable a building to fill up with life, to turn a private space into a public one by penetrating it with a public space. The old buildings in Berlin are examples of this, with two, three, sometimes even four interior public spaces.

 


Berlin Baumschulenweg Crematory (1993)

 

 

COMPETITIONS: You are referring to the interior courtyards (Hinterhöfe)?

AS: Yes. Nothing of this sort exists anymore in Berlin. Most buildings (at the street) are flat, sometimes elegant, sometime ugly. The Galeries Lafayette, with all its glass, is as closed (to the outside) as one of Unger's sandstone buildings. It's the same issue in the construction of every building. Take, for instance, the Berlin Schloss (the palace in the center of Berlin), which was completely demolished after WWII, and which some people think should be resurrected. This has been on our mind constantly.*

 

It would be such a contrast to urbanism—needing to punch holes in it to get inside—open to all the people and all walks of life. I can give many examples of this, for me very northern, very restrained, very alien to everything which infuses a culture with life. All the people here like Kohlhof, Ungers, Kleihues, etc.; all have that tendency of closing. Even Libeskind—and maybe he doesn't think about it or want to have it appear in such a manner—does it with the Jewish Museum where there is no penetration. There is always this hiding, this animosity to the urban fabric. They are not interested in breaking it up.

 


Bonn Art Museum - Competition (1985) Completion (1992)

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