WE INHERIT: A SITE whose collective dark memory has erased hope of livelihood and LIFE; A SITE which has alienated people from the land and clear water as pollutants transfer surreptitiously from one environmental cycle to another, loading deeper with every passing year; and a site WHOSE INVISIBLE DEFORMATION COMPETE WITH SILENT DEAFENING CRIES THAT STACK THE REMNANT OF THOSE WHO SURVIVE.
DISPLACEMENT: An unnatural event has transformed the nature of an existing system. . A new nature lies suspended in the moment of the event, in time, in change, and memory..
“Nature breeds us..then hides us..our nature betrays us..”
MEMORY: Memory of the event and its aftermath overwhelms all memory before. They bridge in the form of scars buried between the displaced nature and the landscape it manifests.
“Our memory lies not in space.but in the abstract of life itself.our memory lies in the numbness and silence of us being forgotten.
We can be forgotten..but we live in the night..in a snap of the finger.in the purpose of living..”
VIOLENCE: The violence of an instant. The violence of that instance over a lifetime. The violence of that lifetime. These scars manifest in this displaced landscape.
“Our life has hinged around the night since..as we sway and bang repeatedly against our shadows, the momentum of our past holds against us.. our fixity is our life..our detachment is our attachment”
COMPOSURE: The state of SHOCK is followed by composure. A state of cleansing all scars and wounds. These wounds become the grounds of healing. The healing is only in reviving a state of equilibrium superimposed on the irreversible change. One which imbibes hope and singular survival. A courage of being identified as an individual in a crowd.
The state of silence pursues, to lead to a revelation. One of a future, one of a self-sustenance and community.
“Water flows washing the new landscape and is used to renew a forest long
BENEVOLENCE: A memorial can only situate itself in pure memory and benevolence. A characteristic of the human spirit. A stage achieved over a period of time.
This benevolence continues along time to create a sense of space, social belonging and completeness.
The purpose of a project like this at the site of disaster after 20 years is surely meant to see that our short memory does not relegate this irresponsible accident and loss to burial. We have decided to remember and have placed our faith in the physical act of presence / absence on the site as a potential tool.
Walter Benjamin considers history is inevitably distorted to serve the dominant powers and its objectification carries the distortion in its presentation of its view of history as fact. Memory in its fragmented recollection of the past becomes the primary means of individual resistance of the hegemony of history in this context. Hence the import of memory and more so of the collective.1
The architecture of the memorial and its capacity to generate a cognitive notion of a place of an immense industrial human tragedy is based on a two-fold assumption. Firstly, a physical presence / absence of physical elements can trigger involuntary memories.2 Secondly, and more importantly, the act of ritual and ritual routes as operative agents of social memory.3
The engagement of the body, repetitive acts of veneration, shared actions and associated social behavior in and around such a place makes a collective memory. While the former inscribes’ the latter ‘incorporates’. The latter being of greater import and capacity than the former in the ability to create a memory that sustains.4 Without the articulation of the engagement of the self (and the collective self more so) it therefore is impossible to make collective memory (which encapsulates the setting of the man-made by the former process), even if in parts.
The tragedy at the site has resulted in mass displacement of people and industries from the city as well as in the proximity to the site. This has fractured the growth of the city in this area and it has started to develop in directions away from the site…..
The responsibility to endure this tragedy has eventually fallen on the victims. A void of responsibility and accountability is left behind in site, which still finds itself contaminated with toxins.
This is a symbolic landscape a landscape of voids reminiscent of scars and the stretching of a taut undulating green that seeks to knit together…….. heal…… and grow…………
A NEW TERRITORY: This is a topography that weaves within and without, blurring the relationship of the object and subject of the gaze. The role of architecture becomes one of relation with space as a living entity. Architecture and landscape here are no longer two sides of the coin but one and the other simultaneously. It is a field of political, social and spatial conflict. Architecture and landscape simultaneously position themselves in this zone of conflict.
The definition of the site design is deformative an act of process, reason, flexible ground, dynamic evolution, continuous multiple links, macro and micro space. The activities will breathe life into this disfigured place.
To become a public place that is safe we have to stop any further contamination of the soil and ground water table due to percolation of rain water / leaching in this particular ‘brown field’. Our proposal for the complete cleaning of the site would be as per the below mentioned process:
Step 1: Investigation of the site for locations and the respective levels and chemical composition of contamination. This would require a grid borehole investigation at appropriate interval and depths to be done. This creates a three dimensional picture of the contaminated soil at the site. This process needs to be repeated successively at closer grid intervals and depths till it is clear as to location of the area of the soil and depth that is contaminated.
It is not possible to decontaminate this soil. Hence it has to be removed from the site under a strict process of supervision of excavation, removal and transport of this soil.
Step 2: We will require concurrently setting up a landfill site for this project - large enough to take care of the contaminated soil from this site and possibly make it adequately larger to be able to cater to the present need for technologically correct method of disposal of hazardous chemical waste from industrial units of the city. The location of such a place ideally on the outskirts of the city that is in close proximity of the industrial zone / industrial units that need such a facility in view of the laws of pollution control that are framed and enforceable to all such production units. The financial viability of such a facility is dependent on the enforcement of such laws that need to be abided by such units. This would restrict any further cases of contamination of the earth by such units deliberately.
Step 3: On identification of location and preparation of such a landfill site we will have good earth that is not contaminated, available to us for filling at this site at predetermined areas for landscaping etc. The cavity of the excavation of the landfill will be utilised to dump safely. The preparation of the layers of the landfill would restrict and seal the contaminated earth / debris appropriately from contamination of the landfill soil soffit as well as the possibility of being able to harvest rain water for supply to adjoining areas / ground water table recharging.
THE APPROACH TO GROUND ZERO: “We emerge on the upper landscape. The thrust of the ground plane ahead and a piece of the sky on the ground and the intrigue of the mound draws me forward, I resist and turn back I am surprised at my traverse through porous cavities below me abuzz with program.”
At all points of emergence from the lower voids the land gently dips down sharply. This clean directional spatial thrust visually frames an upper level water strip which reflects only the changing sky another visual metaphor a fragment of sky captured on the landscape.
The tilted ground plane leads to the FLICKERING WALL OF LIGHT inclined concrete perforated wall lit by day and night by natural sunlight and the ritual of burning candles.
At the congruence of the two slopes a series of intimately scaled floating platforms enables one to light a candle in memoriam I see the flickering light of a thousand candles - trying hard to create hope from the sorrow of thousands who died and more for who suffer today and will continue to recoup over generations. This is a silent prayer a prayer, a meditative moment for healing, a moment to be alone.
AT GROUND ZERO: Movement to and through Ground Zero is constructed as a one way experiential movement.
We believe that Ground zero is most powerfully expressed as VOIDS suggestive of excavation and a burial of the past hence the structures are proposed to be removed and the debris sent to the landfill site to be disposed appropriately.
The exact footprint of each of the plans and storage tank facility is positionally preserved by a retaining wall of reinforced cement concrete and a WRAP internally of stone. (The voids are not excavated below ground level, to keep the rain water drainage of the site natural) against which the earth mounds up.
Entry at Ground Zero Memorial is at the lowest congruence of the inclined ground and wall plane. The opening reveals itself as a crack between the planes.
Both the voids are linked by an intermediate tunnel like connection which negotiates the rising level from the first to the second.
- 1. Benjamin, Walter Illuminations, trans. H Zohn, Collins / Fontana, London 1973
- 2. Proust, Marcel In Search of Lost Time vol1, Swann’s way, Trans, CK Scott Moncrieff and T Kilmartin, revised by D J Enright, Vintage, London 1996
- 3. Cannerton, Paul How Societies Remember, 1989 + Hayden, Dolores The Power of Place 1995.
- 4. Forty, Adrian Words and Buildings A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture London 2000.