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: Allison Williams (Summer 2009)

awcc_final_side3
August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh, PA (Competition 2003, competion 2009)
COMPETITIONS: When did you first decide you wanted to become an architect? Was it a sudden revelation?
ALLISON WILLIAMS: My undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley is in the practice of art. It would be wrong to say that I wanted to be an architect from the beginning; but frustration with the practice of art not really feeling that it was going to be a career-based thing for me. At the time, in the late 60s and early 70s, I was surrounded by some really promising artists. For me there was also the of what the art was going to be used for — how do you know exactly whether something is working or not, whether it’s interesting or not, whether it has a sort of bigger platform of use or service? I grew up in a home which was very visually based. My father was not an architect by the strict terms of the AIA; but he was an engineer-urban designer type—he built our house in Cleveland. So architecture was part of my life from the beginning. My mother, who was a journalist, was very artistic. So it came together, but rather as a graduate degree at Berkeley.
COMPETITIONS: I guess Yung-Ho Chang (previous Chair at MIT) wasn’t at Berkeley when you were there. But he was so good at rendering, that everyone sort of waited to see what he was doing before they got started.

 

AW: When I started there, I was the only one in my class of thirty who knew how to draw or knew how to express things. We had all kinds of backgrounds in the masters program at Berkeley, psychologists, structural engineers—you name it in terms of their background. They were very unfamiliar with the tools of architectural or life drawing.

 

COMPETITIONS: Was there a particular person or persons along the way who helped shape your ideas on architecture?

 

AW: Beyond my father, there were some inspirational people. People who really taught me the most are those who think of architecture as series of problems you need to solve. Gerry McCue, who later became the dean at Harvard was one. If I was going to identify the most inspirational architect, it would be Le Corbusier. I don’t know if it’s just a generational thing, or just total admiration. It probably has more to do with more time in Paris and France than any place other than places I have lived. I have probably visited almost every work by Corbusier.
During my time at Skidmore, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Marc Goldstein, who was an incredible mentor. I benefitted in my experience and success at the office because of working with him. When he became ill, he looked to me to just take it and run.

 

COMPETITIONS: What was the first competition you ever entered? And the most memorable?

 

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