One cannot compare tradgedies, but it's hard not to notice that here in New York we've spent billions of dollars and the last decade coming to terms with the nightmare of 9/11, while there has been, until now, no serious drive for a memorial to the more than 100,000 victims of the AIDS epidemic. That number is shocking, isn't it? AIDS is one of the great human and cultural catastrophes of our time, a plague still ongoing, even though we tend to forget about it.
As Justin Davidson reports in New York Magazine, the impetus for a memorial competition came in the wake of the announced closure of St. Vincent's Hospital, a ground zero of sorts for the epidemic. The idea: appropriate the small and largely unused park directly across Seventh Avenue, and recreate it as a memorial space. Congratulations and thanks to our friends at Architizer for making it happen.
Last week the winner was announced, "Infinite Forest," by studio a+i. From the limited presentation materials, it's somewhat difficult to fully grasp how it will be realized, but it's an encouraging start. Mirrored walls will enclose the site, reflecting back on a grove of birch trees, the effect creating a space that will appear to multiply out to infinity—an appropriate metaphor for the magnitude of the loss. The exterior wall of slate will be at once monumental and somber, but also allow for individuals to chalk up their own impromptu memorials. Below grade there will be a learning space (this was part of the brief), about which I'm curious to know more—generally, I prefer my memorials to be just memorials, and leave the business of history elsewhere.
Infinte Forest, plans
There is, at present, no client for this project, and it will only now begin to make its way toward reality. I hope we can make it happen. Frankly, it's the least we can do.