10 Inspiring Modern Memorials

The winning design for Norway’s July 22nd Memorial is one of many poignant architectural metaphors for loss. Here are nine more memorials that use modern architecture to pay respect.

Capturing the complexities and emotions of tragic events represents an incredible challenge for designers and architects. Based on the initial feedback for Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s proposal for the July 22nd Memorial in Norway, it appears that he’s struck the right chord of commemoration and catharsis with his stunning yet simple concept, a literal cut slicing through the soil, symbolizing something which can never be recovered.

1. July 22 Memorial (Hole and Oslo, Norway): Designed by Jonas Dahlberg

Visitors to Hole will walk across a forested peninsula before encountering Dahlberg’s design; the names of the victims will be etched in stone across from the viewing area, out of reach. Photo courtesy of Jonas Dahlberg Studio and KORO/ Public Art Norway.

It’s been reported that nearly one in four Norwegians knew someone affected by the 2011 Otoya massacre, when extremist Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo and shot and killed nearly 70 people, mostly teenagers, at a youth retreat on the island 45 minutes west of Oslo. Dahlberg’s design, "Memory Wound," the unanimous winner of the government-sponsored design contest, features an 11-foot chasm (the excavated soil will be used to create another memorial in Oslo). His poignant design recalled the work of other designers, who grappled with the incredible challenge of creating a physical representation of loss.

2. World Trade Center Memorial (New York, U.S.A.): Designed by Michael Arad

Israeli-American architect Michael Arad’s design for the eight-acre site in Lower Manhattan includes twin reflecting pools, which rest on the sites of the Twin Towers, and an array of illuminated and heated bronze panels bearing the names of the victims, all arranged according to a system of "meaningful adjacency" to map relationship and bring together family and survivors. Arad spoke to Dwell about the memorial last year. Photo by Mark Hogan.

3. Steilneset Memorial to Victims of Witch Trials (Vardø, Norway): Designed by Peter Zumthor

An abstract sword of a structure slicing across the Barents Sea coastline above the Arctic circle, this curious collaboration between Pulitzer Prize winner Zumthor and artist Louise Bourgeois commemorated the death of 91 people accused of witchcraft. Zumthor’s long, sleek cocoon of silk and oak commemorated the lives of each victim, and points to Bourgeois’ installation, "The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved," an endless flame consuming itself upon a steel chair.

4. Jewish Museum Berlin (Berlin, Germany): Designed by Daniel Libeskind

The master architect crafted a stunning, emotive statement about Jewish life and loss in Berlin. Within the reinforced concrete alleys, hallways and gardens of this structure stand evocative structures (the abstracted Star of David, the grid of pillars in the Garden of Exile, the 66-foot-tall Holocaust Void) that translate experience into space. Photo by Goodnight London.

5. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum (Oklahoma City, United States): Designed by Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg

A grid of illuminated glass-and-bronze chairs, laid out in rows to represent which floors of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building each victim was during the bombing, light up at night, becoming beacons of hope. Two gates mark the edges of plaza and memorial; the 9:01 Gate (the last moment of innocence) and the 9:03 Gate (the start of the healing process). Photo by Jimx.

6. Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (Paris, France): Designed by Georges-Henri Pingusson

This claustrophobic concrete structure is lit by 200,000 glass crystals, symbolizing each Jewish deportee from Vichy France who was later killed at a concentration camp. Photo by Ted Drake.

7. Women’s Monument in Memory (Santiago, Chile): Designed by Emilio Marin and Nicolas Norero

Commemorating women silenced via political oppression throughout history, this somber glass sculpture creates line and frames through a simple layout, as if inspired by the candles and snapshot that make up more ad-hoc memorials.

8. Memorial for Tree of Knowledge (Barcaldine, Australia); Designed by m3architecture and Brian Hooper Architects

Commemorating the site where Australia’s Labour party was born in 1891, this intriguing monument creates a spatial disconnect between a dead tree, its roots housed in a glass case, and a canopy of timber slats, creating an empty space where the healthy tree’s branches once spread.

9. UTA Flight 772 Memorial (Sahara): Designed by Aviation Sans Frontières and Sahara Conservation Fund

How do you commemorate a disaster that occurred in an inaccessible location? Les Familles de L’attentat du DC-10 D’uta, an organization of family members of those who lost their lives in the 1989 UTA Flight 722 crash in the Sahara desert, turned to Google Maps. Journeying to the site of the crash, they created a 200-foot diameter sculpture from rocks of a plane set within a compass, visible on Google Maps.

10. Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico): Designed by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos

This array of 70 steel slabs may not be the most inviting setup at first glance, but it’s actually a massive interactive display; visitors can etch their own stories into these massive pieces of metal, creating a constantly changing repository of stories.


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