Canada's Department of National Heritage has announced the five finalists for the LGBTQ2+ National Monument competition, a project meant to honour the community and recall its oppression during the LGBT Purge period. Among the shortlisted designs is SOM's proposal, consisting of an array of flagpoles stripped of their flags, symbolising the trauma, deprivation of culture and concealment of identity that the LGBTQ2+ community was experienced. Designed in collaboration with Rebecca Belmore, Noam Gonick, and HTFC Planning & Design, the design titled Bapiiwin, meaning survival /overcoming in native Ojibwe, seeks to provide a space of remembrance while serving as a symbol of resilience.
The densely populated grid of nine-metre tall, slender steel poles with a mirror finish project a diverse image depending on the viewing point, resulting in an object that, as explained by the designers, "embodies the contradictions of LGBTQ2+ experience". The reflectivity enhances the user experience, while the gird allows for a multitude of pathways and ways of exploring the monument. At the centre of the monument stands a low, round table meant to encourage dialogue. The surrounding landscape features plants traditional to indigenous healing practices to the south, while an expansive lawn unfolds to the north as a space for festivities.
The field of poles is accompanied by an acoustic art piece designed by Rebecca Belmore and Noam Gonick and engineered by acoustic designer Iraklis Lampropoulos. A series of speakers below ground reproduce "words and sentences selected from Frank Robert Wake's Ottawa Fruit Machine tests — a set of failed experiments designed to identify LGBT individuals for persecution", thus recalling the community's oppression during the Purge period.
Between the 1950s and mid-1990s, the LGBT community in Canada has been systematically discriminated against, harassed, arrested and excluded from public service jobs in what became known as the "LGBT Purge", affecting the lives of over 9.000 people. The LGBTQ2+ National Monument is an initiative meant to honour the community's resilience in the face of persecution. The other finalists are MASS Design Group, BBB architects Ottawa, Public City Architecture and a team comprising Fathom studio, MVRDV and Two Row Architect. The five proposals are currently available for public feedback, after which a winning design will be established.