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Silent City - Tangshan Earthquake Memorial, Tangshan, China

Wednesday 10 Dec 2008

Unearthing the layers

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Earthquake memorial design allows relationship between the past and the future 

When the earth shifts it represents, in human terms, a catastrophe. But in geographical terms it unearths a new topography, a section of layers and a new perspective on the land. Over thirty years after the Tangshan Earthquake of 1976 this shift is reflected together with the sentiment of loss in Kjellgren Kaminsky’s design for Silent City, an unsuccessful entrant to the Tangshan Earthquake Memorial competition.

This dichotomy is present throughout Kjellgren Kaminsky’s design which looks both to the past and to the future. Ruins were to be treated and remain as a permanent reminder of loss, water placed at the foot to reflect and elevate their importance. Swing lanterns which function as illumination, seating and sculpture provide sympathetically-designed contemplation space and in the dark, a fantastical view as they spread into the distance. An interactive feature of the design was to allow visitors one by one to deconstruct a wall of ‘message stones’ contained in a structural mesh, writing their personal memorial on the stones in chalk and placing them where they wish in the 100 hectare landscape. Eventually the wall of 240,000 stones would disappear and, with the thoughts of thousands of visitors, be dispersed throughout the park. Water from the ruin pond would spread throughout the park and paths of white stones carry a message of peace, black message stones taking prominence if placed on the paths ensuring the message of remembrance remains strong.

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Kjellgren Kaminsky Architecture

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