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maria memorial

As you walk along the waterfront you can see a memorial growing outwards as if it sprouted from beneath the city. From a distance, the memorial appears like a tree whose surfaces and branches have been aged by the waterfront with the passage of time. However, as you approach closer, you realize that the weathered patina is actually a canvas of names that are embedded in between a continuous flow of lines. These lines appear to gradually fade as they flow upwards to the top of the tree. Before turning around, you catch a reflection of yourself in the surface which reminds you of the humanity and resiliency of community in times of tragedy.

The Maria Memorial on the Esplanade at Battery Park exists as a speculative project that takes the form of a kapok tree to pay tribute to the victims of Hurricane Maria and act as a symbol for the resiliency of the Puerto Rican community. Foreseen, is that this gesture can act as a catalyzed entity, drawing New Yorkers and others together through social cohesion and community resilience. The proposed design forms a three-dimensional structure that is self supporting and encompasses a six meter depth, width, and height. It responds through form, materiality, and its relation to the waterfront site by acting as a beacon which contrasts sharply to the mass of the buildings surrounding Battery Park. In plan, the memorial is oriented at the corner of the Esplanade, while in elevation the density of branches aligns towards the Statue of Liberty.

Design, research, and prototyping with LuxMea, including Ryan Cook, Steven Avis, Vahid Esraghi. 2019. LuxMea: Jean Yang, Edward Broeders, Ryan Cook, Steven Avis, Vahid Esraghi, Xiao Su.

A pattern of names and lines are embedded within the memorials surfaces – with the lines being representative of a responsive and growing community. Although the memorial is designed to ensure that all can be fully seen by following a specific visibility logic, the design also encourages people to participate in exploring the monument by reading its surfaces as an interconnected story which chronologically flows upwards until the lines fade into the polished steel branches at the top.

This memorial can be seen as a contribution to Manhattan as an incarnation, as opposed to something built, as with other sculptures in the past. It is designed to engage the Puerto Rican American community as well as all guardians of the Upper and Lower Bays in the Manhattan Harbour. The design can be used as a way to symbolically unify people under its branches and along its roots. It reaches out to embrace all those who approach it, and offers protection under its canopy for those to gather and reflect in both personal and public ways as they read the names of those lost. Although the organization of names is designed to ensure that all can be fully seen by following a specific visibility logic in mind, the design also inherently encourages people to participate in fully exploring the monument by reading its surfaces as a continuous and winding story – starting at the base and flowing upwards until the flowing names and lines eventually disappear into the polished steel surface.

In respect for the victims and all those who have been affected and their communities, the memorial is designed to fully recognize the broadest accumulation of lives lost both directly and indirectly with the progression of time. In contrast to the predominantly commercial atmosphere of the esplanade, the project ultimately aims for a transcendental gesture for the victims of Hurricane Maria and intends to ultimately offer a place to mourn for the great loss of life but also symbolize the relationships between people of all races, as well as all of humankind and mother earth. In the process, the memorial serves as a unique place with other stewards of the land and waters for everyone to enjoy.