Situated on MIT?s campus in honor of Officer Sean Collier who was shot and killed on April 18th 2013, the Collier Memorial marks the site of tragedy with a timeless structure?translating the phrase "Collier Strong" into a space of remembrance through a form that embodies the concept of strength through unity. The memorial?s shallow stone vault is buttressed by five radial walls, which extend outward toward the campus. The ovoid space at the center of the radial walls creates a passage, a marker, and an aperture that reframes the site.
The design of the memorial combines age-old structural techniques for spanning masonry vaults with new digital fabrication and structural computation technologies to create an unprecedented form. The design relies on the exact fit of the 32 stone blocks to transfer loads in pure compression from stone to stone. The stone fabrication process involves the cutting of quarried blocks of stone, first with a single-axis robotic block saw, then with a multiple axis KUKA 500 robot. The robotic milling process produces final stone pieces that are within a 0.5 millimeter tolerance of the digital model. Methodologically, the design process for the Collier Memorial involved a back and forth process between the construction of physical, analog, and digital models and simulations with digital tools. The massive stone blocks are then set on-site by masons through an intricate scaffolding sequence.
The didactic visualization of forces is consistent with MIT's ethos of openness, while the idea that all five walls are needed to achieve a stable form is symbolic of a community coalescing to commemorate a loss. The permanent Collier Memorial offers the opportunity to remember Officer Sean Collier and honor his life and service, and represent shared values: openness in the face of threat, unity through diversity, and strength through community.