“In order for a pain to be healed… you have to acknowledge the fact that this pain has occurred” Maya Lin. Construction of the first memorial began in 1966 (during Soviet times) in response to the 1965 Yerevan demonstrations during which one million people demonstrated in Yerevan for 24 hours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Genocide. Inspired by the above events as well as the specificity of this memorial regarding the site conditions, the winning design of the project by Etienne Bastormagi Architects had to undergo a conceptual brainstorm. The design proposes a space – not only to remember the ones that died through the act of genocide-that is designed to celebrate the ones that have survived and helped us reach to our existing status. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Re-thinking the memorial as not only a static sculpture (as were earlier versions) but as a space that would allow for social interaction. The memorial does not only resonate with the feelings of loss / mourning but those of rebirth & renaissance.
Located on one of the mountains overlooking the city of Beirut, within a field of trees interrupted by a wall, a scar within nature represents the atrocity of the act as well as the milestone in the Armenian history and is made of a double structure. The first a concrete 7 m high curved shape wall embracing the existing rocks, the other a 5 m dark grey granite wall floating above ground expressing the surrealism of the event. The double structure with one rotating axe stand out as a representation of the existing armenian population as well as that of the diaspora.
The granite wall carries an undefined number of 200- 300 Khachkars of 30*30 cms engraved within the wall reflecting the symbolism of the intellectuals that perished on the 24th of April event, that underlie a light/shadow reflection on the wall due to the modular protruding elements detailed on the boards below. The design was also considering what the memorial would look like at night view its location on one of the main hills that overlook the region, visible from the surrounding context.
“A scenography” is created by having cross shaped lit structures arising from ground disappearing with the sky – an act of Ascendance that intertwines the fate of the Armenian people to that of their religion. The memorial thus proposes a path – a pilgrimage path similar to the ones our ancestors created during the deportations- is one that extends 120 m * 10 m wide, a ramp slightly elevated at its end to enforce the perspective and help with the effect, separating it from the surrounding functions. The path starts with a circle – a dot – (the alphabet structure – the identity sculpture that contains 38 rays symbolizing the 38 letters of the Armenian alphabet) and ends with a spiral with the 50th anniversary monument at its center, the choice of which is to mark the beginning of the battle of recognition and leave the future open.
The visitors have the option of entering a concrete spiral room underneath the existing structure that would become an open museum with a genocide map explaining the sequence of events, or visiting the main monument which contains a wall of respect, one that acknowledges the countries / governments that have recognized the Armenian genocide, as well as an open air amphitheater that would host any related events. A green esplanade becomes a background for the existing Armenian architecture church, as well as a piazza that would serve the scholars as well as the priests and visitors situated in front of the surrounding buildings that would be covered by a green row of trees.
The memorial thus becomes a space of awareness, not only mourning or a space to remember those who have passed, but one that becomes a positive vector in the line of battle that would mark the Armenian history.