Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Competition
Bridging the Void
A memorial for the Holocaust in Atlantic City is both an exemplar of the idea of contemporary culture and memory and an opportunity to demonstrate ways forward. The idea of culture has become uncertain, in the sense that in our globally interconnected reality, the very idea of culture as a stable, shared condition is fundamentally questionable.
This uncertainty presents difficulties in regard to the idea of harnessing collective memory via symbolic gestures, such that memorialising an event such as the Holocaust in a way that is universal and enduring presents significant problems.
This project works via the deployment of a “poetics of wonder” – a wonder which occurs in the middle zone between the familiar and the unknowable or unthinkable. This poetics appears through the combination of the phenomenological experience of the material condition and the psychoanalytical impact of the commemorative moment. The bringing together of the specifics of site and commemoration creates an inner- outer condition, inspiring visitors to look at their world anew.
A diagonal line running through the site points directly toward the camps of Poland and East Germany. Thus, the site of the memorial is directly connected to the sites understood by all to be key places in the history of the Holocaust. The diagonal line forms 2 places – one connected to the boardwalk and city and one connected to the sea – thus describing in physical terms the void that exists between the city and the sea.
The star is extended into section to further emphasise this split. The base material of the memorial is concrete, linking it to the sandy coastal context in which it sits. Over this concrete base, the boardwalk is extended to physically bind these two locations, bridging the void between the boardwalk and memorial, binding the two together.
A void along this diagonal split symbolises the void of compassion and basic human rights which is fundamental to our understanding of the Holocaust. This void holds the city and sea apart. A glass bridge spans across this void, focusing us on the delicacy of this space and the need to preserve at all times a desire for human rights. Inscribed within the glass are site of the Holocaust and/or texts from survivors that preserve in material terms this memory. The haptic quality of this glass text bridge encourages reflection upon the unknowable nature of the Holocaust.
Having crossed the glass bridge, views are available out to sea over the concrete base as it merges with the sand. In this base, the presence of 6,000,000 LED lights provide immediate connection with the scale of the Holocaust and describe the void that can never be bridged due to the loss of individuals, families and generations.