David Adjaye, Ron Arad to design new Holocaust Memorial in London

The National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will honour victims and survivors of Nazi persecution.

David Adjaye, and Ron Arad's submission for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

David Adjaye will design the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in collaboration with architect Ron Arad and Gustafson Porter + Bowman.

The announcement comes after a star-studded list of 10 architectural firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects, Foster + Partners and Daniel Libeskind, submitted their ideas for the iconic structure.

Adjaye, Arad and Gustafson Porter + Bowman were selected unanimously as the winning team, by a Jury including the UK’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Mayor of London, the Chief Rabbi as well as first and second generation Holocaust survivors and architecture and design experts.

Adjaye and Arad previously worked together on a design for Canada's National Holocaust Monument, but those honours went to Daniel Libeskind.

For the new memorial, the two created a structure that will physically submerge visitors in the history of the Holocaust. In a video released by Adjaye Associates, Arad said, “It’s the walking through that is the memorial.”

To which Adjaye added: “It’s principally about making you encounter the story. It’s ringing you into the story that helps you understand your place in the world. It’s something you have to engage with.”

David Adjaye, and Ron Arad's submission for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

The UK Government and Malcolm Reading Consultants announced the international competition to design the structure in September 2016.

To be located next to Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens in London, the memorial aims to “affirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to stand up against prejudice and hatred,” according to a statement released at the launch.

At the same time, the learning centre to be erected alongside the memorial “will advance Holocaust education across the United Kingdom and help visitors develop a deeper understanding of how societal breakdown can, in the worst cases, lead to genocide.”

To maintain the open green space of Victoria Tower Gardens, the team have placed the Holocaust Memorial at the far southern end of the Gardens, embedded in the land. Accordingly, visitors approaching the Memorial will see a subtle grass landform with only the tips of the Memorial’s fins “bristling in the distance”. 

Speaking on behalf of the team, Adjaye said, “The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time. Our approach to the project has been to reveal these layers and not let them remain buried under history. To do so, we wanted to create a living place, not just a monument to something of the past. We wanted to orchestrate an experience that reminds us of the fragility and constant strife for a more equitable world."

David Adjaye, and Ron Arad's submission for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

David Adjaye, and Ron Arad's submission for the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.

Adjaye has had a hand in many iconic projects, and most recently he announced plans to build the new Studio Museum in Harlem and Spyscape, a new museum in New York City dedicated to espionage.

The only architect to be named among TIME’s most influential people in 2017, Adjaye has also completed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, won the London Design Medal and received a knighthood.

“We are deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to tell these stories to the nation through a National Memorial and Learning Centre," said Adjaye. "It is critical these highly important and emotive historical touchpoints are explored, so that future generations are able to experience, learn, reflect and act.”

Watch what he had to say about Africa and the future of cities at Design Indaba's inaugural Design Commons.