The permanence of a memorial too often contradicts the impermanence of memory itself. In order to reconcile the extremes, we saw the eventual dissolution of the architecture in positive terms. The design was then seen as a fusion of the two: the permanent and the temporal, the man-made and the natural, indeed architecture and landscape. The memorial attempts to eradicate the border between the two.

REMEMBERING AND FORGETTING: Competition Entry for the National War Memorial - Stage 1 by Gautam Bhatia In Global Design Competition for National War Memorial and Museum. New Delhi, 2016.
REMEMBERING AND FORGETTING: Competition Entry for the National War Memorial - Stage 1 by Gautam Bhatia In Global Design Competition for National War Memorial and Museum. New Delhi, 2016. © Gautam Bhatia

If the memorial is a precise statement of an idea and function, it must simultaneously also convey a future uncertainty. Besides the clear elucidation of intent, the place gains in the imagination only when it also becomes an imaginary deposit of possibilities. In the long march of memory, the permanence of loss of a loved one – a soldier, a husband, a family man – requires a visible marker. Yet the changing nature of memory itself makes recall difficult and over time alters – into an arena of remembering and forgetting. The design of the tunnel accounts for both states and follows the course of memory itself. The memorial enlarges on the scope of human experience: people come to recall a loved one whose name is etched on the wall, with other names. They locate the name, thoughts run through their mind. Evoking images of a life nowgone. The experience of recall remains personal and private, filled perhaps with sentiment and emotion. For another - untouched by war and private tragedy - the tunnel has a curious appeal, people may be drawn to it for its architectural experience - its circulating darkness, inducing a different state of the mind. The curved surface of thousands of names, visible all at once surrounds completely, a single surface, without breaks or edges, without linear geometry or shadows. A progression from dark to light, and forms a walk-through in slowly unfolding panoramic space. Martyred soldiers appear like a dictionary of names, a chronology of unknown people who have died for a purpose, marching in columns, crowded together. They remain there, suspended in geological time, remote and still. The shape of the tunnel defies all conventional aspects of architectural experience. Its primary course is processional – a direct movement through autonomous space that has a beginning and an end. People are unaware of wall, or floor, or ceiling. Instead they move on a suspension in mid air – as if floating through the tunnel atmosphere, only aware – though the haze – of the despairing chronology of lists etched around them. Progress through the memorial begins as a tunnel that passes under the road. Further down the tunnel, the roof begins to part and open up. The unfolding takes place as an act of dissolution where – as the memorial progresses towards the lawn – its circular section begins to open out. The roof disappears, connecting the tunnel to the sky and landscape. The idea is to indicate the eventual dissolution of the list of names on the wall into the vegetation. The two: the listing of names on the circular walls, and the garden landscape above, begin to reach towards each other in a slow timeless crawl, changing and affecting the other, and fusing in some future time. The eventual synthesis ofname and flower and green is meant only to signal the altering state of memory itself, the transition from self–conscious identity to a collective anonymity. The final resting place of memory that gradually returns to a formless original. The move towards anonymity is a positive state where the soldier eventually has no identity at all– and is seen only as the fluttering white flower or green, that submerge his name and preserve it for posterity.