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David Adjaye: ‘Holocaust denial has festered in the UK’


David Adjaye has defended his controversial Holocaust Memorial saying that deniers of the atrocity have ‘festered in the UK’

The £50 million project, designed with Ron Arad, has faced criticism over its location in Victoria Tower Gardens, a park next to the Houses of Parliament.

But in an interview with the Evening Standard Magazine, the award-winning architect said: ‘It needs to be next to Parliament. In Britain we thought we didn’t need to make a Holocaust memorial; we had liberated the concentration camps.

‘But even here, Holocaust-deniers have festered. History has taught us that we need a mechanism to remind us of what we did and why we did it.’

Adjaye said memorials could be used as ‘political tools’, adding: ‘We can use them to try to address injustices or misreadings of the past. To continually look at your past is the only way to make a better future.’

Last month protesters picketed a public exhibition of the latest designs for the memorial, which includes 23 bronze fins and a subterranean learning centre, arguing it was the ‘right idea, wrong place’. 

Latest designs for the Holocaust Memorial by Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad

Latest designs for the Holocaust Memorial by Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad

Latest designs for the Holocaust Memorial by Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad

Architect Barbara Weiss, who started a petition against the project, said the designs were ‘ill-resolved’ and that building on the park would mean the removal of a number of mature trees. 

Last month a group of Jewish peers also criticised the design of the scheme, which they said ‘evokes neither the Holocaust nor Jewish history’.

However, co-chairs of the UK Memorial Trust Ed Balls and Eric Pickles hit back, telling Jewish News no other site ‘comes close to its symbolism and significance’.

The newspaper also published its own editorial backing the structure, which it said was ‘a memorial worthy of prime location’. 

In the Evening Standard interview, Adjaye also stressed the need for London to be a more ‘equitable’ city. 

‘Housing is fundamental,’ he said. ‘It requires not just the skills of the architect, and London has those, but also political will and the private sector. If Grenfell does not teach us about the need for more equity in the city, we are lost.

‘Equity means somewhere decent to live for everyone.’


Readers' comments (2)

  • It's understandable that David Adjaye defends his design, but Ed Balls and Eric Pickles risk devaluing the memory of the European holocaust by imposing the memorial and learning centre on this site; a memorial might be appropriate but - to create a learning centre that really serves the purpose, and doesn't disrupt a small and much valued park - there's surely the need for more space rather than trying to shoehorn it into Victoria Tower Gardens.
    And Lord Pickles might be better advised to examine his role in the aftermath of the tragedy of Lakanal House, given what came next.

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  • Nathan Silver

    It's shocking that David Adjaye tries to characterise opposition to David Cameron's undiscussed and highly unsuitable choice of the memorial site to "holocaust denial." The many thoughtful and principled objectors (including park users and defenders, planning critics, councillors, MPs, the Westminster Society, and Jews like me) think there are far better sites than one that will eat an important small park, create impossible security and congestion problems, and probably dump for good the chance of a masterplan that could really make sense of improving the parliamentary precinct.

    Our denial only concerns what is in every way a destructive choice of site. We shouldn't be surprised that it was from the leader who gave us Brexit.

    Nathan Silver RIBA
    Editor, TheWestminster Society newsletter

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