The Holocaust, a violation of our collective humanity, has affected the way in which we understand the world in which we live, it pre-conditions our decisions and our value judgments. These are the enduring consequences of human tragedy, they transcend generations and become part of who we are. The memorial is about all of us, past, present and future.
When considering the admittedly unconventional context of the proposed memorial site, the physicality and materiality of the memorial is of essential importance. We made the decision to ensure that by design, the memorial would aggressively occupy and defend it’s position within the somewhat chaotic and commercial environment of the boardwalk and it’s varied attractions and distractions. As such, it was critical that we find a balance between the contemplative nature of the memorial, and this intentionally physical posture on the site.
The memorial design begins with an abstract object, solid, pure and whole, one that is composed of a number of uniform rectangular tubes. The specific number of elements is not important; however, the scale communicated by a large, almost uncountable number is intended. These like-elements are then radically displaced or shifted away from the center of the object leaving a network of contiguous complex voids behind. Elements are then purposefully erased to effect a dissolution of the whole and signify that for humanity, our loss is permanent.
The physical erosion of the object that begins on the inside, reveals itself in a distorted and fractured object defined as much by the perceived absence or negative space as the resulting form. The hopeful effect of this physical act is one that is now measured in space and light. The remaining complex network of tubes, voids and fissures carry day light into the object to illuminate the interior space. The perpetually changing light within this space betrays a salient fact, the Holocaust, and all moments of crisis for humanity, can not be separated from our history or our future.
The proposed site along the Atlantic City Boardwalk poses a number of significant environmental challenges for the design with respect to the durability of materials, effective maintenance of the memorial, and ultimately, the sustainability of the project in an area characterized by extremely high pedestrian traffic. The oceanfront location is defined by relatively harsh environmental factors, including exposure to extreme temperatures, excessive coastal winds, sand erosion, and exposure to corrosive ocean air. The long term integrity of the structure and ease of maintenance become integral to the viability of the memorial in this context.
Our approach to mitigate these conditions was to limit the memorial to the use of a single durable building element, one that was suited to the environment and simple to fabricate. The proposed building elements could be pre-fabricated in a controlled shop environment to strict tolerances and pre-assembled into larger units to be erected in the field. The proposed rectangular tube elements are 9” x 9” hollow sections in 60” lengths formed from lightweight GRP, or glass-reinforced plastic. GRP is a cost-effective shop fabricated, high strength-to-weight ratio material that is non-corrosive and easily repaired. Typically used to fabricate a variety of high quality marine-grade products, GRP can be machined to an exceptionally high finish standard with the application of pigmented gel coat and polishing to create beautiful and durable exterior building components. This material is easily sourced and fabricated locally, and is ideally suited to the abstract object-like quality required of the project.