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To Design, To Remember: Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos

To Design, To Remember: Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos Ph. Sandra Pereznieto Courtesy of Gaeta Springall Arquitectos

This project is featured in 2: “Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas.” The issue takes its name from a project led by the Office for Urbanizationation at Harvard GSD. It explores the potentials for landscape as a medium of urban intervention in the specific social, cultural, economic, and ecological contexts of Latin American cities. The issue will be available very soon. Sign-up to our newsletter to be the first to know!

The project Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico by Gaeta Springall Arquitectos began with a first-place prize in an open national competition in July 2012. The competition involved the recovery and creation of a public space organized by Mexico’s College of Architects (CAM-SAM) and included eighty presented projects. When the winning architects saw the site, they knew that the vocation had to be a forest; the preexisting landscape suggested how the space had to be arranged. Landscape plays a fundamental role in the city, and the memorial inserts itself as an urban piece that respects the site’s preexisting characteristics while it constructs public space that becomes a model and medium for the city. Therefore, the studio’s proposal envisioned a project that was open, for the city and the people. 

The project was built on 15,000 square meters in the Bosque de Chapultepec. Reflecting and investigating into the concept of violence, the ideas translated into a drawing that involved shapes and voids. The project was based on two premises: it would be a public space and a memorial. The following five concepts form the basis of the design.  

An open and active memorial: The idea was to create a living space in constant transformation that suggested peace, life, and appropriation but that also evoked memory, reflection, sorrow, and hope. It is a space that is meant to be unfinished; it is left in constant change, in the conceptual, physical-spatial, and social sense.  

The invisible and the unfinished: This concept emerged as the desire to build without occupying, to show voids and shadows, to create presence and denounce absences, to build but never finish. Las Torres de Satélite by Luis Barragán and Mathias Goeritz served as inspiration as they exist between the dichotomy of massiveness and lightness in which the memorial also exists. 

A forest of walls and trees: Each wall penetrates the ground, almost slashing it, similar to how Lucio Fontana’s slits his canvas in concetto spaziale, attese. Leaving a minimum but deep mark from where the giants appear. Steel walls that function as blackboards emerge, generating voids between them, evoking the memory of those who have been lost.  

Living materiality: A memorial that evokes peace should be expressed through its materials; it should represent death but also life. That is why the architects used a minimal palette that only included steel and concrete, reminiscent of Richard Serra’s sculptural materiality.  

A living memorial: It is constantly constructed by the people who claim it as their own. 

The Memorial now stands as an urban banner and a reminder of peace, a dynamic place that keeps changing along with the seasons and in memory of those who are missing. It is filled by the presence of people who turn it into a place of solace in a country where this is greatly needed. 

LOCATION: Bosque de Chapultepec, Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico / DATE: 2012 / SITE AREA: 15000 m2 / DESIGN TEAM: Julio Gaeta, Luby Springall, archs. / COLLABORATORS: Jesica Amescua, Jorge Torres, Brenda Ceja, Guillermo Ramírez, Edgar Martínez, Christian Ortega, Carlos Verón, Aldo Urban, Daniela Dávila, Miguel Márquez, José Luis Martínez, Juan Verón, archs. / CONSULTANTS: Gustavo Avilés, lighting design; Hugo Sánchez, Tonatiuh Martínez, landscape design / CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT: Federal Government of Mexico and Non-Governmental Organizations Against Violence in Mexico: SOS, Alto al Secuestro y Camino a Casa / PHOTOS: Sandra Pereznieto, Courtesy of Gaeta Springall Arquitectos

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