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: Diana Balmori (Winter 2009/2010)

Diana  Balmori
COMPETITIONS: What brought you to landscape architecture in the first place. And whom did you first look to as a model?

Diana Balmori: When I got my Ph.D. in history, it was the study of public open spaces in cities. The experiences of landscape had to do more with the amount of time I spent in back country in northwest Argentina, north of Chile and south of Bolivia. My father was a linguist and was studying American Indian languages there. We spent a lot of time going out on horseback in deserted landscapes where the Indians lived. Those experiences were very powerful, just the feeling of space. That experience is not a direct one, but it’s always been an active ingredient in thinking about space. The other one was just the issue of the space inside cities.
As for model, I got into landscape because I started writing about Beatrix Farrand, and I encountered a cache of documents at the New York Historical Society about her correspondence with the architect Lawrence White, the son of the famous architect. It concerned this place in Washington. Nobody had any idea about how she had designed it and how she was involved. So here was this incredibly long correspondence about this. I wrote about how in fact all the decisions were being made about the design. She had been forgotten, and there was very little written about her. So after that I some digging on her work on her work at Princeton and her work at Yale, and at Princeton I also discovered a book at Princeton of the actual design and caring for the landscape for about twenty years there. I found it an incredibly wonderful document from which to learn. It was the basis of my learning and getting interested in landscape. After that I decided I wanted to do landscape (design) and not write about it.

 

Bilbao Jardin, Bilboa, Spain (click to enlarge)

 

COMPETITIONS: When one sees your body of work, which are significant for the number of competitions you have participated in, one might assume that you are located in Europe, rather than in this country. It would appear that much of your work has come as the result of competitions. How did you get so deeply involved in that area?

 

DB: At one level, it’s the only way for a person who comes in from the outside for getting jobs. You’re starting an office, so where do you go to? I didn’t have any connections to say, ‘Give me a job.’ So from the beginning I jumped into competitions from day one, and I have pursued them very actively. Now we get into invited competitions and more direct commissions.

COMPETITIONS: Along the way, you must have learned something from these competitions.

 

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