Adjaye Associates chosen to lead £50 million Holocaust Memorial project

The architectural practice has been chosen following a competition to design a new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London, for its “visually arresting” and “sensitive” concept.

The winning design concept has been chosen for the UK’s new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, out of nearly 100 entries.

Adjaye Associates will be leading the project, alongside Ron Arad Architects and landscape architectural practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman.

The team’s entry was chosen following an international competition, which saw 92 entries in total and 10 finalists. The £50 million project is being funded and spearheaded by the Government, working alongside the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation.

It was selected by a jury including mayor of London, Sadiq Khan; secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid; chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; Holocaust survivors; and architects, designers, artists and industry figures, such as Sarah Weir, CEO at the Design Council.

Opens in 2021 next to Houses of Parliament

London’s new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is expected to open in four years and will be based next to the Houses of Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens. It will be dedicated to those who were murdered and persecuted by the Nazis during World War Two, including six million Jewish people, and Roma, Polish, gay and disabled people. It is expected to cover over 2,600 square metres.

The winning design concept will continue to be developed with feedback from Holocaust survivors, local residents, Westminster City Council and heritage organisations such as Historic England and Royal Parks.

“Place of contemplation”

It currently includes 23 vertical bronze fins, with the spaces in-between representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were destroyed during the Holocaust. This creates different paths as visitors walk through the memorial, to emphasise both “collective gathering” and an “isolated and solitary” experience, say the organisers.

The fins lead into a central space, which aims to be a “place of contemplation and transition”, which will then lead into the underground Learning Centre.

This will include a “hall of testimonies” with personal stories of Holocaust survivors, and a “contemplation court”, which aims to be a quiet space for reflection, and will have eight bronze commemorative panels.

“Visually arresting” and “sensitive” concept

The judges found Adjaye Associates’ concept to be both “visually arresting” and “sensitive” to its location and the context of the Holocaust.

Sir David Adjaye, founder at Adjaye Associates, says: “We wanted to create a living place, not just a monument to something of the past.

“It is critical these highly important and emotive historical stories are explored, so that future generations are able to experience, learn, reflect and act.”

Sadiq Khan, London mayor, adds: “This unique and immersive memorial is not just for Londoners, but for the whole UK. It will ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten and will stand as a powerful reminder…about the fragility of peace.”

Three existing memorials in Victoria Tower Gardens

The memorial will sit next to three existing memorials in Victoria Tower Gardens, which include a 1930 statue of suffragette and women’s right activist Emmeline Pankhurst; the 1957 Buxton Memorial Fountain commemorating the abolition of slavery; and a 1915 cast of French sculpture The Burghers of Calais, put up to commemorate the Hundred Years’ War.

An existing Holocaust memorial currently stands in Hyde Park, but is not accompanied by a museum. The new memorial’s Learning Centre aims to “contextualise” the memorial, say the organisers, and explore other forms of hatred and prejudice in society today, such as current anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and extremism, and encourage visitors to “confront and fight modern hatred”.

Imperial War Museum plans to open Holocaust galleries

The Holocaust Memorial project coincides with plans from London’s Imperial War Museum (IWM) to develop a series of Holocaust galleries, which will see over 1,500 exhibits on display and are due to open in 2020.

Holocaust Memorial organisers say that the two projects will “complement” each other rather than conflict, and that the two organisations aim to “collaborate” on teaching and engaging visitors about the impact of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre expects to see roughly one million visitors a year. It is due to open in 2021.

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