City to Submit Rejection of Holocaust Memorial


Local planners have revealed that they will officially oppose the proposed Holocaust Memorial slated to be constructed in London’s Victoria Tower Gardens.

The structure has been the target of debate since its inception and was recently thrown into a public inquiry to decide its fate. Although the Westminster council was expected to oppose the plan, this is the first time it confirmed its position.

Project Background

The team of David Adjaye (Adjaye Associates) and Ron Arad Architects was selected to design the memorial in October 2017 after the United Kington launched an international design competition that saw 92 entries.

According to officials, the 13-person jury chose the Adjaye project unanimously.

The design featured 23 tall bronze fins with the 22 spaces in between them representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were devastated during the Holocaust.

“The complexity of the Holocaust story, including the British context, is a series of layers that have become hidden by time," Adjaye explained. "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.”

But since then, the design has been met with strong criticism about its location, size and overall appearance.

Adjaye spoke to The Times about the location critique, noting that there are already two memorials in the park and stressing the importance of having the monument near Parliament.

Groups opposed to the decision, including the city’s Royal Parks Authority, claim that it will disrupt the garden.

According to the Architects’ Journal, the Royal Parks objection letter read: “Overall the somber nature of the memorial, the large structure and the necessary security measures around the curtilage of the Victoria Tower Gardens will change the nature of what is currently a relaxed park alongside a unique riverside location.”

There have reportedly been mroe than a thousand objections officially lodged.

In May 2019, design changes were made to the memorial. While the overall design with the bronze fins remains intact, a few tweaks have been made to give the outer appearance some subtlety.

The revised design includes:

  • Changes to the entrance, making it lighter and more transparent;
  • Changes to the roofline to ensure better views across and around the structure; and
  • Changes to the courtyard to make the space more intuitive and inclusive.

The revisions reportedly also adjust construction and excavation to improve logistics on the site.

The monument originally had an estimated completion date of 2021, with a 100-million-pound (roughly $130 million) backing from the government.

In August, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn called on the Westminster City Council to approve the plans, which came a week after documents were uncovered that showed U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs expressing misgivings about the planning process.

Moreover, some objectors to the memorial called the mayor’s words an interference of the democratic process.

Meanwhile, the Foundation co-chairs had written to the council looking at the weight that’s being given to the number of objections to the project. (Though the project has also reportedly received thousands of comments in support.)

In August, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn called on the Westminster City Council to approve the plans, which came a week after documents were uncovered that showed U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs expressing misgivings about the planning process.

Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken had responded at the time saying that the application seemed to be heading to an “unfavorable recommendation.”

About two months after that comment, in November, the government decided that Housing Minister Esther McVey would decide whether plans for the memorial will move forward or not, not the Westminster council.

While the U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation asked for the move, others called the decision to put the scheme up for federal decision a “power grab” as the announcement was made close to Parliament’s general election, which took place in December.

That decision put into motion a public inquiry, which is slated to be held and overseen by an independent planning inspector, which will then be reviewed by McVey who will make the final call on the project.

What Now

The city council confirmed its opinion—which calls the memorial an “inappropriate development”—in a new report, which is set to be discussed by the planning committee on Feb. 11.

While the council says it supports the overall principle of the memorial, it argues that it doesn’t fit well in Victoria Tower Gardens citing the memorial’s planned aesthetic as well as potential loss of trees and green area for the gardens.

“The central question is whether or not the proposed location is suitable for the current proposal,” the position states. “Whilst proximity to Parliament may be considered desirable, given the harm which will be caused, Victoria Tower Gardens is not considered to be a suitable and appropriate location for the development proposed.”

Although the decision for the memorial is no longer up to the council, it was still expected to submit its position to the inquiry, an official date for which has not been set.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Good Technical Practice; Government; Public spaces; Upcoming projects

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