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Design Selected for Mandela Memorial

Monday, December 8, 2014

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An Ohio architect's vision of life, growth and shelter will imbue a forthcoming California memorial to South African President Nelson Mandela.

The winning design by Brian Sell, senior designer and architect with Columbus, OH-based Moody Nolan, was announced Friday (Dec. 5), the one-year anniversary of Mandela's death.

About 200 designs had been submitted for the memorial in Northern California.

Mandela monument
Moody Nolan / Nelson Mandela Foundation

The new memorial will be built in 2015 in San Mateo, CA.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, along with NorthStar Memorial Group and Skylawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park, announced the winner of the design competition meant to honor the late social justice leader.

Mandela passed away in 2013 at the age of 95. Imprisoned for 27 years for his opposition to apartheid, he later served as South Africa’s first democratically elected President and brought about profound change in the region.

New Memorial Design

Sell's design—which symbolizes life, growth and shelter—reflects a translation of Mandela’s birth name, “Rolihlahla,” which means “pulling the branch of a tree.”

The memorial will be completed in late 2015, in Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo.

Brian Sell
Moody Nolan

Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." Architect Brian Sell said the goal of the winning design was to create a "timeless memorial that embodies" education.

“The challenge to capture Mandela’s spirit in a permanent monument is what sparked our desire to create a memorial that reframed people’s views about their circumstances and ability to drive positive change,” said Sell.

“We want visitors to see the world and its challenges in a more positive way. If just one facet of this memorial inspires someone to change their lives for the better, our mission was accomplished.”

California Connection

The monument’s location “reinforces the strong connection between the San Francisco Bay Area and Mandela’s life and work, which dates back almost three decades,” according to the award announcement.

In opposition to Mandela’s imprisonment, then-U.S. Rep Ron Dellums (D-CA), who represented the Oakland area for decades, drafted the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.

Nelson Mandela
South Africa The Good News via Flickr

Nelson Mandela was a social justice leader whose "legacy belongs to the world," his family said.

In addition, thousands of Bay Area residents rallied for civil rights and Mandela’s release from prison. Shortly after his release in 1990, the leader visited the area.

Founded by Mandela in 1999, the Nelson Mandela Foundation is a human rights-centered nonprofit organization based in Johannesburg.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Color + Design; Competitions; Contests; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Monuments; North America

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