Monument Design

Look at the way monuments and memorials are designed after Maya Lin’s work, and you see everything has changed. There is no longer a man on a horse nor any other realistic representations. Instead, the designs relate to their context, use forms that evoke an idea or concept of the event commemorated, have a minimal palette, use scale to an advantage, and have simple geometries. The memorial designs encourage the viewer to make the effort to understand and experience the memorial, where it is not an object, but an idea.

I will look at a series of contemporary memorials and give an estimate on how they were designed looking at the factors given above. This is a way to learn about successful memorial design and how to use this knowledge to create a new memorial using the factors and methods explored. This does not necessarily mean the designed memorial is equal to or surpasses those analyzed, but it will allow the designer to use the same parlance and methods as those works to create.

These are some of the memorials I will look at:

Vietnam Memorial

  • Maya Lin
  • Washington, D.C.
  • 1982

Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial

  • Rachel Whiteread
  • Vienna
  • 1995

National Memorial for Justice and Peace

  • MASS
  • Montgomery, AL
  • 2018

Steilneset Memorial to Victims of Witch Trials

  • Peter Zumthor
  • Vardo, Norway
  • 2011

Pentagon Memorial

  • Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman
  • Washington, D.C.
  • 2008

National September 11 Memorial and Museum

  • Michael Arad and Peter Walker
  • New York City
  • 2011

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • James Ingo Freed
  • Washington, D.C.
  • 1993

Beyond spatial design, I will look at the connection with graphic design to fix an idea or view in the visitor’s mind. Effective memorial design shares programmatic requirements with logo design. Draw a connection between these two. Is this a separate work, or can it share the analysis and execution with the memorial work? Perhaps, the two are concurrent where both share the steps: it could be the exploration of the development of an idea across two-dimensional and three-dimensional design. It could be a formal exercise that extrudes and extrapolates from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional, as well as collapses from the third-dimension to the second-dimension. Part of the work could be: can you draw it easily? This is the sign of a good design.


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