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Revealed: shortlisted designs for UK Holocaust memorial


The designs by the 10 shortlisted teams in the contest to design a £40 million national Holocaust memorial next to the Palace of Westminster have gone on public display

The government is asking for feedback on the concept schemes, which have been submitted by some of the world’s foremost architects, including Daniel Libeskind, David Adjaye, Zaha Hadid Architects and Norman Foster (see full shortlist below). 

The finalists were asked to design a new structure in Victoria Tower Gardens to honour those who suffered from Nazi persecution as well as a 2,650m2 subterranean learning centre which could house recordings of testimony from British Holocaust survivors and camp liberators.

Unveiled earlier today (27 January) to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, the designs will be shown at a number of venues across the UK and online.

The competition, organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants, attracted almost 100 entries from 26 countries.

Shortlisted teams in full

  • Adjaye Associates (UK) with Ron Arad Associates, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, DHA, All Clear, Accept & Proceed, Abigail Morris, and Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Allied Works (USA) with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Robert Montgomery, OLIN, and Lisa Strausfeld
  • Caruso St John (UK) with Rachel Whiteread, Marcus Taylor, Vogt Landscape Architects, Arup Lighting Design, and David Bonnett Associates
  • Diamond Schmitt Architects (CA) with Martha Schwartz Partners, and Ralph Appelbaum Associates
  • Foster + Partners (UK) with Michal Rovner and Future\Pace, Local Projects, Avner Shalev, Simon Schama, Samantha Heywood, Tillotson Design Associates, David Bonnett Associates, and Whybrow
  • Heneghan Peng Architects (IE) with Gustafson Porter, Event, Bruce Mau Design, BuroHappold Engineering, Bartenbach, and Duncan Boddy (PFB Construction)
  • John McAslan + Partners (UK) with MASS Design Group, DP9, London Communications Agency, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Local Projects, Modus Operandi, JencksSquared, and Lily Jencks Studio
  • Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects (FI) with David Morley Architects, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, and Hemgård Landscape Design
  • Studio Libeskind (US) with Haptic Architects, Martha Schwartz Partners, Lord Cultural Resources, BuroHappold Engineering, Alan Baxter, Garbers & James, and James E. Young
  • Zaha Hadid Architects (UK) with Anish Kapoor, Event London, Sophie Walker Studio, Lord Cultural Resources, Arup Lighting Design, Whybrow, and Access=Design

The designs will be judged by a high-profile jury, chaired by Peter Bazalgette, including communities secretary Sajid Javid, mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky.

However, speaking about the feedback process, a spokesperson for the government said: ‘We are consulting on the shortlist with the public, those working in the field of Holocaust remembrance and education, and technical experts. This consultation will play a crucial role in informing the jury’s final decision on the memorial.’

To submit feedback on the designs, email ukhmf@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

The government has pledged £50 million as its contribution to the total project costs of the ’National Memorial, the creation and running of a co-located learning centre and additional wider educational work on the Holocaust’.

Jury in full

  • Peter Bazalgette (chair), Chair, United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation and Chair, ITV Board
  • Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom
  • Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
  • Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
  • Ben Helfgott, holocaust Survivor, Honorary President, ’45 Aid Society and President, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
  • Sally Osman, director of Royal Communications
  • Loyd Grossman, chair of Royal Parks
  • Alice M Greenwald, director, National September 11 Memorial and Museum
  • Daniel Finkelstein, journalist
  • Baroness Kidron, film director and crossbench peer
  • Dame Julia Peyton-Jones, former director of the Serpentine Galleries
  • Paul Williams, director, Stanton Williams Architects
  • Charlotte Cohen, Prime Minister’s Holocaust Youth Commissioner
  • Natasha Kaplinsky, broadcaster. Kaplinsky recently recorded the testimonies of over 100 Holocaust survivors and camp liberators.

Competition brief/vision

Envisaged as a place for everyone to come to remember the Holocaust, as well as a focal point for annual national commemorations, the memorial will affirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to stand up against prejudice and hatred. It is intended to inspire reflection and compassion, and encourage present and future generations to respect and embrace difference. In parallel, a new Learning Centre is planned, subject to technical, financial, planning or other constraints, which will advance Holocaust education across the United Kingdom and help visitors develop a deeper understanding of how societal breakdown can, in the worst cases, lead to genocide.

The memorial’s site, alongside the Houses of Parliament at the heart of Britain’s democracy, is in Victoria Tower Gardens adjacent to the River Thames. The gardens already have a memorial-narrative inspired by democratic values, which aligns with the project. Three prominent monuments, dating from the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries, commemorate the expansion of suffrage, the abolition of slavery and civic sacrifice.

The design challenge is to create an outstanding and sensitively-designed Memorial and Learning Centre that is emotionally powerful while offering visitors an opportunity to deepen their understanding of humanity’s darkest hour. For some survivors – and those whose lives were affected by the Holocaust – survival stories can reveal glimmers of hope about human nature; for others, to perceive this moment in history as anything but unbearable is to compromise the Holocaust’s implacability.

This is a two-stage international design competition and is being run in accordance with EU procurement guidelines and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The competition was advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

The project costs are estimated to be up to £40 million, which includes is the cost of works, including contractor preliminaries, OH&P, contingency, inflation, all professional fees, site preparation and VAT where applicable. 

The learning centre, expected to measure about 2,650m2, will not be a conventional exhibition or teaching centre. Instead, it will use the architecture, design and interpretation to set the memorial in context and to convey the magnitude of what happened, while ensuring visitors leave the site with a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and its victims.

Design Values

The Memorial and Learning Centre should:

  • Be an outstanding, ambitious, sensitive design that creates an emotionally powerful place for reflection and learning. 
  • Become a landmark of national significance, highlighting the importance and relevance of the Holocaust to the United Kingdom’s history.
  • Establish a place where current and future generations can come to remember the Holocaust and commemorate its victims, and which is also a focal point for annual national commemorations. 
  • Affirm the United Kingdom’s commitment to stand up against prejudice and hatred, inspire reflection and compassion, and encourage visitors to respect and embrace difference. 
  • Be sombre but not shocking; convey the magnitude of what happened in a meaningful and comprehensible way: give visitors a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and its victims.
  • Combine design, landscaping and place-making to enhance Victoria Tower Gardens – improving the visual and sensory experience of the green space, giving it focus and civic presence, both for visitors and existing users.
  • Be a logical and harmonious addition to the existing memorials in the Gardens, all of which can be viewed as a physical representation of the United Kingdom’s conscience and values. 
  • Address the sensitivities of the historic, political and national importance of the exceptional setting, adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the River Thames – and in one of the most visited, and recognisable parts of London.
  • Be widely accessible and communicate to all visitors – regardless of age, faith, background, nationality, language, or knowledge of the Holocaust – attracting and involving people outside the established audience. 
  • Convey the enormity of the Holocaust and its impact, reflecting the centrality of the destruction of European Jewry to Nazi objectives.
  • Appropriately represent the fate of all other victims of Nazi persecutions, Roma, disabled people, Slavs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and all other political opponents of the Nazi regime

Readers' comments (4)

  • I don't doubt the qualifications of the judges but only one architect and no landscape architects, engineers or heritage consultants strikes me as odd.

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  • My reaction to the submissions is that they lack the following.

    Memory of shadows on the earths surface we all make. The fleeting ephemeral evidence. Energy trails that individuals making up a moving crowd, leave in the memory moving from one point to another. The same way that a jet aircraft leaves a vapour trail of its presence and evidence in the sky at one point, you are left with the ephemeral energy that it was once fleetingly there and since disappeared.
    The human spirit is made of energy, and we each touch one another. When we die this energy is still there, some call it memories.

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  • Kapoor and Hadid's design is *very* similar to Michael Heizer's 'Levitated Mass' at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 2012. Heizer found a truly massive rock in a Californian quarry, transported it over a hundred miles to LACMA and it was installed suspended above a specially built concrete ravine (see the 'Levitated Mass' film, directed by Doug Pray, for more). Visitors walk under and around the rock, and the experience is to acknowledge the weight, the import, the gravity. Whilst Heizer's piece is abstract and arguably relates to the human condition in more general sense, it would be a great shame to see such a knowing and unreferencing copy of his work.

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  • one architect is more than enough on a jury for this type of project.

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