Never Forget: Brooks + Scarpa Design a Holocaust Memorial in Florida
Adding to its list of current accolades, Brooks + Scarpa has recently been selected to design a Holocaust memorial in Florida. Located on the grounds of Tallahassee’s modernist capitol complex by Edward Durell Stone and Reynolds, Smith & Hills, Larry Scarpa, firm cofounder, says the commission is particularly significant for him. “Scarpa doesn’t sound Jewish, but my mother was Jewish,” he begins. “Even though I was only partially raised Jewish… it was an integral part of my childhood.” The link goes deeper. “Many direct relatives were killed in the Holocaust and family survivors emigrated to the U.S. As did my Italian father (not, incidentally, related to architect Carlo Scarpa) after the war when he was nine years old.” This coupled with the fact that he grew up in Florida, which has a sizable population of Holocaust survivors, made the competition so vital to him.
Passage of the Heart, as the studio’s proposal is called, aims to create an experience for visitors that moves beyond the visual. “Experiences remain with us,” state Scarpa and firm cofounder, Angela Brooks, who first learned of the competition through an artist friend. “It is important to us that our design capture this sense of experience, contemplation, and wonder.”
The 14-foot-high form will be a composition of folded triangular planes derived from the pulsing beat of a heart. Visitors are meant to circle around it, walk through it, and experience it during daylight and evening hours. In materiality and details, the piece will be filled with symbolism, honoring Jewish traditions and the horrors of the past coupled with hope for the future. Its exterior will be clad with Florida limestone. The use of stone alludes to the Jewish custom of visitors placing a stone upon a loved one’s grave—an act of reverence, it brings generations together. The stone panels also will have triangular cuts intended as time capsules where families of Florida’s 67 counties, selected by the Holocaust Organizing Committee, can place objects or messages, similar to those many embed in the crevices of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Interior surfaces will be clad with 22 bronze panels representing the countries in which Jewish communities were destroyed. Covering the entire surface of the panels will be etched numbers, referencing those tattooed upon arrival at the camps. At night, the backlit numbers will glow as a symbolic gesture of “enduring life through tragedy,” Scarpa notes. And the metal’s patinating over time is meant to suggest resilience and durability. As for the camps, their names will be etched in stone, serving as a reminder of the atrocities that we must never forget. For Scarpa, the project holds a personal message, too. “In some way, it memorializes my own family’s grief, suffering, survival, hope, and success,” he shares. Completion is slated for early 2023.
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