Designed by British-Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye, the £50 million memorial will be built in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament. Comprising of 23 towering bronze fins, the 22 paths between them represent the countries in which Jewish communities were decimated by the Nazis during the Second World War. The paths will lead visitors down into a subterranean Hall of Testimonies in which images and voices of British Holocaust survivors will recount their stories.
Sir David’s design, which also honours the memory of non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, was one of 92 entries submitted from 26 countries as part of an international competition commissioned by David Cameron in 2016. Among the architecture and design teams vying for the chance to create a new Holocaust memorial for London were Zaha Hadid Architects and Daniel Libeskind. Sir David’s winning proposal was unanimously selected by a jury including Holocaust survivors, the communities and local government secretary, Sajid David, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The project is due for completion in 2021.
No sooner was the winning design selected than a chorus of disapproval rang out from local residents, MPs and architects who believe it will destroy a beloved London Royal park and create a security threat. One disgruntled local resident described it as a “a ripped-apart ribcage” and “a magnet for people who want to vent their anger”. The director general of the Imperial War Museum, Diane Lees, also weighed in on the debate. Lees questioned the necessity for the Victoria Tower Gardens site in light of the Museum’s £33.5 million project to expand and update its Second World War and Holocaust Galleries.
Former Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, who was on the board which recommended the location for the new memorial centre defended the plans. ‘What could be a more powerful statement of our shared commitment to tolerance and free speech, and our determination to fight extremism and intolerance, than to locate a memorial to honour the victims of one of humanity’s greatest tragedies side by side with one of humanity’s oldest parliaments?’ Balls wrote in the Evening Standard.