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How to Memorialize the AIDS Crisis

A look at some ideas for a park in New York City.

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On Monday, we revealed the winning entries for the AIDS Memorial Park Competition, a grassroots campaign that is seeking to transform a small triangular plot in Greenwich Village into New York’s first major memorial to AIDS victims. We choose the first-place design, “Infinite Forest” by studio a+i, because it "turned away from obvious symbolism and chose to create a solemn space with a sense of respect and remembrance, lining 3 inward-facing mirrors along each side of the triangular block, loosely surrounding a forest of slender white birch trees."

‘The Village Red’ by Jonathan Kurtz, Christopher Diehl, Kathering Ritzman, Brant Miler, Mykie Hrusovski

Today, we offer a better look into the three runners-up proposals and the architects behind them.

“Forest of Memories” by Ooi Yin Mau from Malaysia:

A number of entries featured submerged exhibition spaces and sunken courtyards, but few were as simple and serene as Ooi Yin Mau’s "forest." A flight of stairs descends from the park’s southeast corner, landing at the foot of a shallow pool hugging against the east wall. A second pool runs along the northern edge of the site, narrowing at it terminates at the northwest corner. The two pools frame a small memorial space that sits under the robust forest at ground level.

Mau, who was born and raised in Malaysia, graduated from University of South Australia School of Architecture and is currently working at a leading architecture firm in Dublin. The architect graciously accepted the jury’s commendation, saying: ”It is a great honor for me to be a runner-up in this competition. I was initially shocked by the scale of AIDS crisis in New York, in which over 100,000 lives were taken away in three decades. My design is mainly about memories and hope; these experiences are universal. It is part of our life, and our driving force to move forward. I hope my design will touch the heart of many. I feel extremely proud to be part of this competition, and I am grateful to the organizer and all involved."

"Not Yet" by Manhattan-based Rodrigo Zamora and Mike Robitz:

The problem of memorializing the victims of an as-of-yet incurable disease is that there exists no timeline to frame the design. Architects Rodrigo Zamora and Mike Robitz understand this, and together they devised a scenario with an eye towards the eventual dissolution of the AIDS virus.

A raised park planted with tall grass and trees hovers above traffic, cantilevered over a sunken amphitheater. The gap between the two will close only when a successful antivirus is found and the crisis resolved, at which point the upper park will fall and seal off recessed space.

"NOT YET, actively looks for an end while attempting to address what it means to memorialize an on-going epidemic," said the architects, both of whom received their masters in architecture from Columbia University last year and have worked at leading firms such as Diller Scofidio + Renfro. "This epidemic has impacted both of our lives and the lives of our friends and family, and this competition allowed us to remember all those who’ve died, those who continue to live with this disease, and those who fight for its end.  We are honored to have our design recognized by the jury."

"The Village Red" by Jonathan Kurtz, Christopher Diehl, Kathering Ritzman, Brant Miler, Mykie Hrusovski, and David Berlekamp from Cleveland, Ohio:

"The Village Red" is the product of considerable talent. The team was comprised of five recent graduates from Kent State University and led by adjunct professor and Associate Principal at Westlake Reed Leskosky Jonathan Kurtz. They collectively envisioned a large undulating lawn that stretched the full area of the triangular site and hovered over a vast underground event space. The surface is torqued at the corners, which flare upwards over walls of glass, letting in light to the subterranean exhibition level.

"We are extremely honored to be named in the jury’s selection for New York City’s AIDS Memorial Park," they said. "To create a memorial on a site of this significance in the city was a truly unique opportunity. It is our hope that we have furthered the cause of creating a park that is truly part of the neighborhood and a memorial that emphasizes the dynamic changing nature of an epidemic that is within the power of our collective wills to eliminate."

For more of the projects plus additional information about the competition results, vist the AIDS Memorial Park website.

This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

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