Creating a lasting memorial to the dead is a significant honour for any designer, but equally a hugely delicate design challenge. It is obviously not something to be undertaken lightly or without deep consideration of the event commemorated and the lives lost. Due to the inherent emotional significance to so many people, a memorial needs to say something which acknowledges the loss and at the same time conveys a sense of peace; if at all possible it must both comfort and remember.
In response to the dreadful attacks in Norway on the 22nd July 2011 (perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik) which caused the deaths of 77 innocent people, artist Jonas Dahlberg has created something which speaks volumes in it’s silence. It combines simplicity with a deep conceptual and emotional resonance, producing a hugely moving work of land-art and an everlasting memorial to that terrible day.
This is what is written on the artist’s website:-
The concept for the Memorial Sørbråten proposes a wound or a cut within nature itself. It reproduces the physical experience of taking away, reflecting the abrupt and permanent loss of those who died. The cut will be a three-and-a-half-meters-wide excavation. It slices from the top of the headland at the Sørbråten site, to below the water line and extends to each side. This void in the landscape makes it impossible to reach the end of the headland.
Visitors begin their experience guided along a wooden pathway through the forest. This creates a five to ten minute contemplative journey leading to the cut. Then the pathway will flow briefly into a tunnel. This tunnel leads visitors inside of the landscape and to the dramatic edge of the cut itself. Visitors will be on one side of a channel of water created by the cut. Across this channel, on the flat vertical stone surface of the other side, the names of those who died will be visibly inscribed in the stone.
The names will be close enough to see and read clearly—yet ultimately out of reach. The cut is an acknowledgment of what is forever irreplaceable. This experience hopes to bring visitors to a state of reflection through a poetic rupture or interruption. It should be difficult to see the beauty of the natural setting, without also experiencing a sense of loss. It is this sense of loss that will physically activate the site. People will find their way around the landscape surrounding the cut, looking down at the channel and to the names from a higher perspective, or looking out to Utøya, establishing their own private ways of seeing and remembering.
I will leave you with a couple of the images of the proposal:-