Remembrance on the Pacific Rim: The Canterbury Earthquake Memorial Dedication

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Winning entry:
Graga Vezjek Architect (Image © Simon Baker)

 

Living on the Pacific Rim can be a risky business. In L2010, Christchurch, New Zealand suffered a devastating series of earthquakes, resulting in the virtual destruction of half of the city’s urban fabric in the downtown area, the destruction of 100,000 homes, and the deaths of 185 of its inhabitants.

 

When we first heard of this disaster, one of our concerns was the survival of the new Christchurch Art Gallery, a stunning modern structure, which was the result of a 1998 design competition won by the Buchan Group of Sydney.* Based on the success of that competition, and its strong support by the local populace, using a similar process to select a design for a memorial to commemorate the victims of this disaster would have seemed to be a logical strategy.

 

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Christchurch Art Gallery by Buchan Group (Sydney, Australia)
Competition (1998)
Completion (2003)

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A Symbol of Gratitude: The Tri An Monument Competition


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©Grega Vezjak Architect

 

For residents of Louisville, Kentucky, it would come as no surprise that the city’s Vietnamese community would support a competition commemorating the friendship and support of the Americans both in Vietnam and the U.S. and our welcome for the Vietnamese people who have arrived in this country. The foundation established to realize this concept was named “Tri An,” which means “deep gratitude.” According to the competition brief, “It is important to recognize the numerous humanitarian efforts and good deeds done by the U.S. military and the many Americans who went far beyond the call of duty to help the South Vietnamese people.

As is the case with many non-government supported projects, this one also had a patron who lent his support to project, Yung Nguyen, the local founder and patron of the Tri Ân foundation, also the founder of a high-tech firm. To administer the competition, the foundation engaged the services of a local architecture firm, Bravura, which had a notable track record in memorial competitions, having previously acted as professional adviser for the acclaimed Patriots Peace Memorial competition in Louisville.

In setting the bar for the anticipated winner, the competition brief stated that the design:

  • Be unique;
  • Be dramatic, timeless, and contemplative;
  • Have many levels of meaning;
  • Have the seductive power to invite a closer look, even to the casual observer;
  • Be in harmony with the landscape, and be compatible with the other features and uses of the park in which it will reside;
  • Be a creative use of the hillside site; incorporating its views, topography, and natural wooded backdrop;
  • Successfully convey the Overriding Purpose and Interpretive Themes stated in these Guidelines.

To attract the widest possible audience, the organizers decided on an international, open and anonymous, two-stage competition as the best model. It was decided to award three finalists the opportunity to have their designs equally reviewed for the possible realization of the project in a second phase. For their efforts, each was to receive compensation of US $4,000.

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National Holomodor Memorial

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All photos © Larysa Kurylas
Washington, DC (dedicated November 7, 2015)

 

The Holodomor Memorial competition, held in 2011 in Washington, DC, was covered by this author in an Ezine from January 7, 2012 (http://competitions.org/2012/01/the-holodomor-memorial-competition-commemorating-ukrainian-famine-victims-under-communist-rule/?preview_id=17540&preview_nonce=ad77b76eb3&_thumbnail_id=-1&preview=true). Completed in 2015, and taking a symbolic page from Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall, it commemorates those Ukranians who perished during the Stalin-era collectivization of agriculture in the Ukraine. Contrary to the Vietnam Memorial, there would have been no opportunity to list the million or so victims of that tragedy on this memorial. Across from Union Station, this high visibility site will provide not only a place of contemplation for victims’ families, but provide many visitors with a quick flashback to one of the world’s worst examples of genocide. –Ed.

 

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DESIGN STATEMENT

Larysa Kurylas, Design Architect & Sculptor

“FAMINE-GENOCIDE IN UKRAINE: IN MEMORY OF THE MILLIONS OF INNOCENT

VICTIMS OF A MAN-MADE FAMINE IN UKRAINE ENGINEERED AND IMPLEMENTED BY

STALIN’S TOTALITRIAN REGIME.”

 

Thus reads the dedication panel inscription on the Holodomor Memorial, recently completed in the heart of Washington, DC, to ensure that this horrendous but little known 1932-33 genocide is never forgotten . . . and never repeated anywhere in the world.

The focal point of the Holodomor Memorial is a bronze, bas-relief sculpture titled “Field of Wheat.” Wheat is the theme not only because its confiscation led to the death of millions of innocent Ukrainians, but also because wheat cultivation is one of the few things that Americans associate with Ukraine.

The bas-relief depicting the field of wheat is subtly perspectival. From left to right across 30 feet, highly articulated wheat heads and stalks initially project outward from the rectangular, bronze wall plane, then gradually recede into the wall and finally, as the recess steadily deepens on the right, fade away completely. “HOLODOMOR 1932 – 1933” emerges at the base of the receding wheat stalks.

The entire bronze wall rests on a granite plinth that deepens as the site slopes down to the west. Thus the dynamic, three-dimensional sculpture symbolizes transition from harvest bounty to food deprivation. The negative recessive space of the sculpture conveys the willfulness and cruelty of the famine, motivating viewers to contemplate the inhumanity of using wheat as a political weapon in what was once the “Breadbasket of Europe.” The sculpted “Field of Wheat” is within arms reach, encouraging personal, tactile engagement with the memorial through touching and burnishing of the bronze surfaces. The sculpted wall responds to the L’Enfant plan geometry of the site, reflecting the diagonal of Massachusetts Avenue and the grid of F Street, although the basrelief faces Massachusetts Avenue, the more important street. Being nearest to the triangular site’s widest, western end distances the sculpture from the busy, noisy convergence of North Capitol Street, Massachusetts Avenue and F Street, while framing a memorial plaza paved in furrowed slate with a linear texture evocative of barren plowed fields.

 

Because of the sculpture’s placement and low, horizontal profile, Massachusetts Avenue’s historic sight lines are preserved. This design strategy also ensures that the memorial is perceived as appropriately restrained in character. Granite panels attached to the back of the bronze sculpture face F Street and mediate between the Holodomor Memorial and sidewalk cafes across the street. A geometric pattern etched on the panels derives from a folk-inspired design by Vasyl Krychevsky in 1933. Abstractly suggesting barbed wire, the design symbolizes the attack on Ukrainian culture – a parallel goal of the Holodomor – and alludes to the Ukrainian border deliberately sealed by the government at the peak of the Holodomor.

A wide brick walkway connects the memorial plaza to the F Street sidewalk. Between the sidewalk and the wall, staggered native Forest Pansy purple-leafed redbud trees form a distinctive backdrop for the “Field of Wheat” sculpture. Two native types of Nandina Domestica shrubs, selected for hardiness and yearround visual appeal, are interspersed among the trees and occupy the rain garden — designed to capture all storm water runoff — at the western edge of the site. The shrubs’ white flowers and red berries are reminiscent of “kalyna,” so prominent in Ukrainian folklore.

In the positive-to-negative sculpting of the “Field of Wheat” and the composition of human-scale elements sweeping horizontally across the triangular site, the intent was to create a subtle yet powerful work of commemorative civic art in remembrance of the millions of victims who perished in the Holodomor. This evocative memorial enables contemplation by one person, a few individuals or a group of people. How inspiring it would be some night to see hundreds of flickering candles reflected on the wall, with a gathering of people solemnly singing “Vichnaya Pamyat” – “Eternal Memory.”

 

CREDITS Agency Sponsor: National Park Service

Memorial Sponsor: Government of Ukraine

Memorial Advisor: U.S. Committee for Ukrainian

Holodomor–Genocide Awareness, 1932-33

Architect-of-Record: Hartman-Cox Architects

Design Architect: The Kurylas Studio

Sculptors: Larysa Kurylas and Lawrence Welker IV

Foundry: Laran Bronze, Inc.

General Contractor: Forrester Construction Company

 

 

 

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Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial in Washington, DC

 

NATIONAL HOLODOMOR MEMORIAL, Washington, DC (dedicated November 7, 2015) Photo: ©Larysa Kurylas

 

The Holodomor Memorial competition, held in 2011 in Washington, DC, was covered by this author in an Ezine from January 7, 2012 (http://competitions.org/2012/01/the-holodomor-memorial-competition-commemorating-ukrainian-famine-victims-under-communist-rule/?preview_id=17540&preview_nonce=ad77b76eb3&_thumbnail_id=-1&preview=true). Completed in 2015, and taking a symbolic page from Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the

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Martin Luther King Memorial Competition – Washington, D.C.

MLK---Winner---Roma

 

Martin Luther King Memorial Competition Washington, DC (volume 10, number 4– Winter 2000)

click to view larger image Winning Design ROMA Design Group San Francisco, California

click to view larger image First Runner-Up Kohn, Pedersen, Fox New York, NY

click to view larger image Second Runner-Up Brooklyn Architects Collective New York

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