Monday, August 02, 2004

putting my architect hat on

I recently found a war memorial in central park that I think might be worth exploring. It is a very specific WWI memorial, for a certain company (I apologise but I can't remember the details). It consists of two plaques, one cast metal and the other hand-carved and rudimentary in a large rock. It's not very complicated; there are smaller plaques on the ground for members, each in front of a tree.
I'm not sure why I found this memorial so sucessful and interesting, but i think it has a lot to do with it's mutability and lack of design. The trees have had different levels of success in growing. A few of them have been removed, leaving the plaques naked and alone. There is an implied hetereogeneity in the arrangement; the memorial was placed, and then allowed to change without a strong effort to maintain a homogenous appearence. This growth and change to me implies a finite (if long) lifespan that somewhat approximates the scale and process of social repair and healing. It's also fairly low-rent, which I'm naturally drawn you (thank you, Houston). Despite the amount of attention that memorials have recieved in the last four years, simple and non-monolithic options have somehow been glossed over in favor of grand, immersive experiences that not only deny a discourse with physical context but refuse to place themselves in the realm of temporality as well. Scale has been lost. 
This is probably the result of multiple factors. The inability to step back from recent trauma. The strong branding and iconography of superstar architects. Tremendous pressure for a final solution to a still pressing emotional experience. Also, nobody lived there. I wouldn't be so crass as to say the trauma of september 11th has been healed, but the memorial project is rapidly becoming more about an official statement of effort than an honest attempt to create a transformative healing space.

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