When we think of Memorial Day, we often think barbecues and pool parties as a way to kick off summer. Yet for many it's more a day of reflection for those they've lost. Memorial Day - called Decoration Day when it started - was born out of the ashes of the Civil War, and grew to include all who have died for the United States during World War 1. Architects have a unique role to call us to remember the past through thoughtful monuments, and the following rose to the challenge for five reverent spaces that honor not only those who have died in wars but in other tragedies all around the world.
One of the most moving memorial buildings ever created, Daniel Liebeskind‘s Jewish Museum in Berlin, utilizes architecture to take visitors on a journey through some of humanity’s darkest moments during the Holocaust, when millions of people were murdered by the Nazis. From above, the museum appears to be an “exploded Star of David.” Sharp angles and zigzagging hallways take visitors on a contemplative journey to the Holocaust Tower, Garden of Exile, and Stair of Continuity. The strong design of the museum stands out from other buildings nearby, bringing attention to its important purpose.
Right where the Twin Towers used to stand in New York City, Michael Arad designed the National 9/11 Memorial to capture the enormous loss and invite visitors to reflect. Carved in bronze, the names of those who died on September 11 surround two massive reflecting pools with the biggest man-made waterfalls in America. The simplicity of the memorial contrasts with the grandiose scale, evoking the sense that each loss is incredibly personal while remembering so many died and were impacted that day.
In the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, 18,000 people died or went missing. Tokyo’s Koishikawa Architects created a memorial, called Ishi-no-kinendo, from the rubble of a city hit hard on Japan’s east coast. Lines etched into mirrored stainless steel on top of the monument point mourners to the other locations impacted by the earthquake so they can grieve the loss of loved ones around the country. Since the earthquake struck in the spring, a nearby cherry tree that blossoms that time of year adds natural beauty to the monument.
Over 1,000 migrant workers in Qatar have already perished in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup Stadium. Architects Axel de Stampa and Sylvain Macaux imagined a scalable tower commemorating those people as part of their experimental 1 Week 1 Project effort. Their Qatar World Cup Memorial would draw attention to the country’s reprehensible labor practices, and could grow as more die to build the stadium under conditions some have described as akin to slavery. They said if nothing changes for these workers, the memorial might stretch close to a mile in the sky.
Architects Rudolf Reitermann and Peter Sassenroth utilized rammed-earth architecture to create a minimalist chapel between what was once East Berlin and West Berlin. They erected their Chapel of Reconciliation on the site of a former church torn down in 1985 for “security measures.” Some materials from the demolished church were incorporated in the new chapel in remembrance of what was lost when Berlin was divided. The building also usher in a new era through the use of “sustainable natural methods” in its construction.