The design of this new museum uses light to expose human atrocities and convey hope.
Atrocity has weight and volume; it has shape and body. The design of this museum bears witness to atrocity. The visitor cannot flatten the topology of segregation, slavery and genocide. The design locates the visitor in the experience through pure structure and allows them to feel the moral weight accompanying tragedy. The mediums used are light, concrete and glass. The design strives for resonance and creates a voluminous presence without intruding on the landscape.
The museum is composed of four strata joined together by the “ray of light”—an oculus around which the main ramp helixes. The entry takes visitors underground, planting them in the site, and gives them language to both memorialize and signify atrocity. The natural light has been sculpted to simultaneously collimate and diffuse through the oculus. As a result, the light forms a kind of eclipse on the floor: the umbra pure and collimated, the penumbra blurred. This eclipse acts as the centrifuge around which visitors orbit. The light conveys truth, which retrospection (the oculus) obfuscates and refines. The garden level, entered from the helix-ramp, builds on the meditative space below and makes the symbolic concrete. The perimeter of the museum is a cage, built of black bricks. The light slants in through brick interstices, wall-length windows, and into the interior exhibits. Passing through the garden and up to the top levels, the visitor shifts his/her perspective and identifies with the spectating oculus. The library (2nd floor) and the children’s exhibit space (3rd floor) afford views into the interior garden. The roof is a perforated trellis treated in a black finish to simulate a “black cloud”. The structure is pierced by the oculus which brings light to the darkness.