The Memorial to the Victims of Violence is a space that was created to reconcile political and social turmoil that rises from the ongoing context of violence in Mexico. It is composed of a series of steel plates, some weathered and some reflecting, placed on a water mirror. Light helps articulate these architectural elements as an allegory of that which is now absent in materiality but forever present in both our individual and collective memory.
The recuperation of the public space as well as the remembrance of the victims of violence is the essence of the project. Our project plays the double condition of public space and memorial. The first premise was to recognize the vocation of the site as a forest; with a very strong presence of nature. The violence is referenced in two dimensions: the void and the built. The void proposed in the project is the space created between the steel walls and the trees. This void or empty space is reminiscent of the non–presences and absences of the people to remember, and the surfaces of the steel walls, rusty or mirroring.
Recessed linear lights were placed to suggest a promenade, guiding visitors, serving as a safety measure and spatial orientation, but more symbolically as a guide into deep reflection. Working with the architectural concept, the promenade is also marked with light in crescendo, from less light to a cathartic point of luminosity, and lastly in diminuendo.
In this project light works in alchemy, fusing itself with the landscape, sound, texture, scent, poetic, graphic and architectural language, conjuring an atmosphere of peace and reflection. Light takes abstract values of silence to bring a pacifying effect of solace to the site.
Shedding light as means of invocation-evocation renders an ambiance for contemplation and remembrance. Under this light, the materials engage in a dialogue with the visitor: The rust on the weathered plates speak about the passage of time and the scars that we bear from our past; the lit elements reflected on the water compel us to contemplate and reflect on our present; The interaction between light and the reflecting plates create an ethereal effect, representing a future of silver linings.
In the central space, which is the main space of the Memorial, there is a 1,200 sqm fountain with an undetermined form and open geometry, to remind us that the violence issue is still opened. The fountain is covered with a grid so that the visitor can walk over the water. Water means life; water cleans, and water heals. In this area the steel walls rise stronger and taller, creating the most dramatic point throughout the site.
Positive values of light in contrast to the shadows cast during daytime and their negative representation during nighttime echo a relationship between presence and absence. The metal plates are outlined with the light projectors creating subtle silhouettes. This ambiguity between solid plates, voids, and the water reflection is used as a mechanism to bring materiality to absence. The loss of lives, casualties of this ongoing conflict, is remembered by casting light to emphasize this absence.
A glint emerges from each metal plate to reveal phrases written out with perforated lettering, complementing the site’s solemn tone as graphic and poetic expressions of light.
Lighting the surrounding trees and recognizing their enveloping and comforting ubiquity suggest a divine presence. A colder shade of white is used to light the treetops guiding the visitors’ eyes towards the sky. This light also encompasses the luminous space that emerges from the surrounding darkness as a lantern of hope.
Finally, one of the most important parts of the project is the humanization and appropriation of the steel walls. Society is responsible for making the Memorial. The seventy metallic walls are spaces for people to write the name of their victim, and express their pain, anger, and longings. These steel walls play as mirrors and blackboards, and by the writings, being transformed into witnesses of the pain and destruction provoked by the violence of the organized crime.
Architecture, light and lighting reveals the values of memory and hope as universal pacifiers.