‘Building Memory’ to conceptualize change

The Portland State Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies hosted the event Building Memory: the 2017 Lorry I. Lokey Program on Wednesday, April 26. Building Memory was held to discuss competition ideas for building a Holocaust Memorial in London, England at the Victoria Town Gardens.

Allied Works Architecture is one of 10 finalists that have been selected to compete for the memorial’s design out of an initial field of 92.

Four speakers were featured at the event while Brad Cloepfil, founding principal and head designer of AWA, presented as the Building Memory keynote speaker. Also present at the event were industrial designer Lisa Strausfeld, Jewish studies in Oregon specialist April Slabosheski, and PSU professor and Director of School of Architecture Clive Knights.

The event started with a brief overview of the competition and a video of the design. Cloepfil spoke about the project and how much it meant to him. One of the main ideas emphasized was not the notion of death itself, but to focus on contemporary life after.

Cloepfil went on to explain why the project’s design doesn’t intend to show what happened during the Holocaust but instead focuses on the reasoning that led up to it and how the survivors coped after the war ended. AWA’s memorial project advocates solutions for how government and humanity can prevent a holocaust from happening again.

The project’s main inspiration was led by Cloepfil and Scottish poet and artist Robert Montgomery. Cloepfil and Montgomery focused on the Holocaust’s history while searching for a poetic quality in order to make the memorial unique.

“I should say a little about the nature of what Allied Works does,” Cloepfil explained. “We’re not object builders, we make space. We tried to find a quality of space that people can occupy to spend time in this discussion with these memories.”

After Cloepfil presented AWA’s project details in depth, the remaining three speakers joined him on the stage for a panel discussion on the project’s development. Panelists discussed the challenges endured while planning and provided a brief reiteration of Cleopfil’s earlier sentiments.

During the discussion panel, Cloepfil was asked about his experience in listening to survivor testimonies and how the survivors’ stories affected him. “No matter how many times you listen to it, read it, hear it again from another voice, especially in real time, it just strikes you to your core,” Cloepfil said.

Lisa Strausfeld added to the panel discussion by explaining how AWA’s memorial project is more than a British museum itself. “As a part of a network of Holocaust memorials, it’s kind of a global act of remembrance and more of an activist memorial,” Strausfeld explained.

The proposed museum is to be located beside three other memorials, including the Modern Slavery Garden, a public garden monument that was built to celebrate the British Parliament’s 2015 decision to enact the the Modern Slavery Act. According to MSG’s website, “The garden also looks forward to a day when there are no slaves.”

The winner of the project will be named in December 2017.

*Editor’s Note: The AWA’s project details were omitted from the article in order to respect the project’s competitive integrity. Anyone who is interested in learning more about AWA’s design details can reach project members on AWA’s Portland homepage.  —Alanna Madden, associate news editor