Barbados, Which Just Shook Free of British Oversight, Has Tapped David Adjaye to Build a New Heritage District

The announcement comes just days after the nation swore in its first-ever president.

Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial .© David Adjaye Associates.

Barbados, which last month swore in Sandra Mason as its first-ever president and severed ties with the U.K. as a member of the Commonwealth, has tapped star architect David Adjaye to design its Barbados Heritage District as a testament to the island nation’s culture and identity.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced the plan, which is to include a memorial, a global research institute, and a museum that will tell the story of slavery’s impact on Barbados and its inhabitants.

The district will also house the Barbados Archives, a massive historical catalogue documenting 400 years of the slave trade in tens of millions of pages of documents. The archive, which includes sales ledgers, ship registers, manumission papers, and other documents, is one of the largest repositories of the British Transatlantic Slave Trade in the entire world. When complete, the center will be the first research institute based in the Caribbean dedicated to the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The first step in the development of the district will be the building of the Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial next to the site where the remains of 570 West African slaves were found in low earthen mounds and graves using LIDAR technology in the 1970s.

Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial Colonnade South View.© David Adjaye Associates.

In a statement, Adjaye said the memorial will include an information center inside a monolithic dome pavilion made from red laterite earth; an oculus opening up to the sky; and an aquifer connecting to a water source running beneath the memorial, completing a triumvirate of elements.

A circular mound at the highest point of the memorial will feature 570 timber beams capped by brass plates to commemorate the individuals buried there.

“Drawing upon the technique and philosophy of traditional African tombs, prayer sites, and pyramids, the memorial is conceived as a space that contemporaneously honors the dead, edifies the living, and manifests a new diasporic future for Black civilization that is both of the African continent and distinct from it,” Adjaye said in a statement.

The groundbreaking will take place on November 30, 2022, on the first anniversary of the establishment of the republic of Barbados.

See renderings of the memorial below.

Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial, Bridge End North View.© David Adjaye Associates.

Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial Bridge Start on Center North View.© David Adjaye Associates.

Newton Enslaved Burial Ground Memorial, Memorial Threshold East View.© David Adjaye Associates.

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