UK Holocaust Memorial, London, UK
Location: London, UK
Programme: Memorial, educational centre and public park
- Remembers crimes against minorities throughout the Second World War
- Learning centre sits below the park, with only the memorial at ground level
- Two curved steel walls face each other, a tranquil pool between them
- Facing each other the walls are smooth, the outsides are covered in symbols, images and rust
- The journey creates a narrative of the Holocaust era
- The park remains for the public but landscaped and offering glimpses into the memorial below
The UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre reflects on the Holocaust, the persecution and systematic mass murder against not only the Jews, but also against other minorities, that took place during the Second World War. The scheme balances a landscape and a memorial, holding on to the park space that fosters current social identity, but putting deep roots down for the ongoing teaching and learning of the atrocities that took place.
The learning centre, tucked below the ground and accessible through a thin slice in the park’s fabric, provides information and evidence as well as an emotional and narrative experience about the era of the Holocaust. The memorial which rises out of a pool of water is a composition of two arcs facing each other. One arc describes the Holocaust; the other describes how it was experienced in the UK.
The visitor walks through the arcs – entombed in rusted metal – symbolically along the iron rail tracks. The destination is either a death camp or a train journey across the Channel into the UK. The area between the arcs, which contrastingly is lined with smooth steel surfaces either side of a shallow pool, creates a bare space of tranquility. The rusty or acidified steel sheets in the outer surface of the memorial have on them the symbolic signs of ships and trains and the constant remembrance of home – they all refer to the tragedy of the Holocaust. The structures extending from the memorial down through the ground into the learning centre together to join a subterranean environment of rusted steel and concrete surfaces combine to create one functional, artistic and emotional entity.
Above ground, the gentle curved landscaping of the park surface naturally channels the park users toward the memorial and to make the tour through the media installation, and yet the park can remain a park. The substantial learning and gallery spaces below ground provide an ideal location for the history of the Holocaust to live on, and yet the ripples that shape the landscape above ensure to always be a relevant home to visitors and locals – integrating, rather than enforcing, the memorial into the everyday life of Londoners.
Throughout the learning centre, light flows underground. Through the water pool between the arcs, natural light comes down through a glazed ceiling into the introductory gallery. The ‘Holy Tree’ which breaks through the surface of the park, brings sunlight down into the ground where it is planted. As well as these, secondary entrances puncture down into the learning gallery with their own smaller atria.
Architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki
Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma with Petri Saarelainen, Jukka Savolainen, Taavi Henttonen, Johannes Koskela, Laura Iivarinen, Jan Krupa, Jonne Ahvonen and Julius Seniunas
David Morley Architects
David Morley with David Preece, Matt Parford and Stuart MacKay
Ralph Appelbaum Associates
Landscape: Hemgård Landscape Design
Structures, Building Services, Feasibility, Sustainability: Arup
Physical Models: Vertikal Space Ltd (scale model), Seppo Rajakoski (installation piece)
Cost Consultation: Lucy Darling, Haidee Gonsalves, Matthew Brooker
Visualisation: Brick Visuals (exterior), Tegmark (interior)
Specialists: Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (Education and Jewish Heritage consultant), Dani Karavan (Artist)