Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Dublin Grounds of Remembrance in Ohio by PLANT Architect Inc.
December 11th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: PLANT Architect Inc.
The Dublin Grounds of Remembrance is the winning scheme in a two-stage competition for a veterans project in Dublin, Ohio. The committee requested a project to recognize veterans and their families that was “not a memorial, but a place for reflection, contemplation, remembrance, honour, introspection and community gathering.”
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
Spirit, that made those heroes dare,
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837, from the Concord Hymn
The committee had selected a one-acre site in the historical village of Dublin that forms a doughnut of lawn around an 1840s cemetery, leading into a steeply sloped forest ravine and creek with an existing nature walk. The site was not defined from it’s neighbours as the lawn was continuous with the adjacent library and schoolyard, and has strained visibilities from the street due to the ravine.
As the site has no prior military significance, we posited that the landscape itself must become activated by collective and individual ritual over time. The project proposes the act of walking to generate a physical relationship with the site to create meaning – the collective memory of this community using this land creates the commemoration, not a commemorative object. The act of walking permeates life for soldiers and civilians with its references to marching, pacing, pausing, wandering, hiking, therapeutic walking, journeys, parades, processions, and pilgrimages. These physical and public acts – participatory acts – restore and commemorate. The design approach began with defining, demarcating and naming the site and developing an architecture that is intimate with it: The Grounds of Remembrance demarcate a place of significance circumscribed by the Guide Rail, contains Indian Run Cemetery, and is organized into a Walk, Loggia, and Sycamore Grove, together defining the limits of the grounds and choreographing the experience through the site on both ceremonial days and everyday visits.
The ritual Walk is signaled at the street with an Entry wall and the beginning of the bronze GuideRail and runs from the ceremonial area framed by the Loggia, through the newly planted Grove to the Memory Wall in the secluded ravine. The excerpt from Emerson’s Concord Hymn, laser-cut perforated through the bronze end wall of the Loggia was originally written for Concord’s centennial celebration of the start of the Revolutionary War, making an ancestral connection between the original fight for independence as a necessity for freedom, and all veterans that have followed. The Memory Wall is an intimate place of pause at the end of the walk: a bronze tube perforated stone wall to receive personal and private messages. The Walk, calibrated to pace movement, focuses on the individual journey of remembrance; the Grove provides for both wandering and large gathering functions; and the Loggia –the ceremonial backdrop, panoramic window, and shelter – together with the Dedication wall, is the place of collective pause.
Architectural and landscape elements are closely drawn from the cultural and natural history of the site – the cemetery, ravine forest and limestone cliffs – rather than creating an idealized form on the site: The transparent Loggia, cut letters of the poem, and perforated Memory Wall frame the landscape at the large and small scales; the smooth Indiana limestone Dedication seat wall and bronze Guiderail that polishes with use and hugs back with its form, highlights by contrast the jagged foreboding cemetery wall; and, the rugged Memory Wall of rough and smooth-cut North Shore Limestone and startling mottled Sycamore bark draw from the limestone cliffs and sycamore lined stream in the ravine below.
Each element reinforces the physical and mental remembrance that generates personal meaning for the site while physically and metaphorically providing support, shelter, and guidance. The fundamental dual spatial and textural character of the site – open and accessible versus remote and rugged, spawns the spatial contrasts of the project: The Memory wall occupies an intimate contemplative space, while the new Grove will create a natural canopy reinforcing the stark open lawn of the cemetery and sheltering the collective open space of the sloped amphitheatre to the Loggia. The Walk with its stabilized Indiana Limestone screenings, lined with engraved Limestone dedication pavers –purchased by residents to honour their family and friends–and crossed with precast concrete pavers creates a visual and aural pacing, with the sound changing as one crosses into the woods.
Dublin is a large wealthy suburb of Columbus that has grown from 750 residents to 30,000 in just 30 years. Though the area had been a farmer’s village crossroads for over 150 years, only a tiny number of residents have any history here. This created a special challenge for the project as the City boasted few veterans, though there were several sons and casualties in Iraq. This project is part of a series of deliberate actions by the city to create anchoring and identity for the community – a vigorous outdoor art program, a long list of highly choreographed festivals, a restrictive zoning by law and an intense street landscaping programme. Our approach to the project was to create a place with a strong identity that would be drawn from an intimate awareness of the site, to turn the attention of the residents to the special qualities inherent in the site itself. It would allow each person to bring their own veteran remembrance – a memory of family from far away – to the site, and encourage an action that would bring these memories together into a collective imprint for the site.
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