David Adjaye Will Work With Jonathan Safran Foer on London’s Holocaust Memorial—But the Plan Has Its Critics

The education center hopes to combat ignorance and intolerance as threat from far-right increases.

Front View of the memorial. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

David Adjaye, the architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and Nobel Peace Center in Oslo will design the new, more than £50 million ($65 million) Holocaust Memorial in the UK, the location of which is controversial.

Critics contend that the compact site at Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament, is unsuitable, as it already contain several memorials.

Meanwhile, the director of the Imperial War Museum, which is less than a mile away, has urged reconsideration of the project because its award-winning Holocaust Exhibition is getting a £35.5 million ($46 million) upgrade.

Adjaye will collaborate with the Israeli-born architect and designer Ron Arad. On their design team is writer Jonathan Safran Foer, whose maternal grandfather was a Holocaust survivor. Among the strong shortlist of 10 designs­­—selected from 92 entries to the international design competition—were proposals by Norman Foster, Caruso St John, Zaha Hadid Architects, and Daniel Libeskind. Artists and writers on their teams included Rachel Whiteread, Anish Kapoor, and Simon Schama, and professor of History at Columbia University in New York.

“The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time,” Adjaye said in a statement announcing the winner on Tuesday October 24. “We wanted to create a living place, not just a monument to something of the past. We wanted to orchestrate an experience that reminds us of the fragility and constant strife for a more equitable world.”

Adjaye’s design will be partly underground, and will feature 23 bronze fins, the spaces in between which are meant to commemorate the Jewish communities devastated by the Holocaust in 22 countries.

Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

Stairways between the bronze panels will lead to displays including recorded testimonies, and space for remembrance of the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, gay, and disabled people.

The choice of Adjaye was made unanimously by the jury, which included first and second generation Holocaust survivors, the UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, as well as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and Alice Greenwald, director of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.

Threshold to the Learning Center. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

“[The memorial] will ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten and will stand as a powerful reminder to future generations about the fragility of peace,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The learning center will also aim to address antisemitism, extremism, Islamophobia, racism, homophobia and other forms of hatred and prejudice in society today. “This timely memorial will encourage and inspire peaceful coexistence and tolerance and will lead to a better appreciation of what can happen when hatred is allowed to develop unchecked,” said Rabbi Mirvis.

Rabbi Mirvis was speaking days before an alleged plot to murder a Member of Parliament emerged. The plot against Rosie Cooper, who is the Labour MP for West Lancashire emerged on Friday October 27. A member of the banned far-right group, National Action, has been charged with the intention of committing acts of terrorism and threats to kill.

See more images of the winning proposal below:

Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

View South. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

View from the Thames. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

Contemplation Court. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

Aerial plan. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

Aerial at night. Image courtesy Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad.

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