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Prime minister backs Adjaye and Arad’s controversial Holocaust Memorial

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Theresa May will speak out in support of Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects’ contentious Holocaust Memorial proposal, arguing it will stand to ’preserve the truth forever’

The prime minister’s backing for the memorial comes amid furious criticism of the project from heritage groups and local residents over its location in Westminster’s Victoria Tower Gardens.

According to The Guardian, at a ceremony taking place today (7 May) to mark the annual British Heroes of the Holocaust award, May will say that seeing the project through is a ’sacred, national mission’.

’By putting our National Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre next to our parliament, we make a solemn and eternal promise that Britain will never forget what happened in the Holocaust’.

The project will also receive backing from former prime ministers including David Cameron, Tony Blair and John Major, via pre-recorded messages of support to be played at the ceremony.

Last week the government unveiled a redesign of the £100 million memorial which retains the memorial’s 23 bronze fins but completely reworks the entrance pavilion.

Announcing the new designs, Housing, Communities and Local Government secretary James Brokenshire said he was ’clear’ that the park was the right place for the memorial.

He said: ’The striking revised designs follow comprehensive consultation and discussion with local residents, Holocaust experts and survivors and, in addition, we are taking a wide range of measures to preserve and enhance the local park and ensure it remains fully accessible to the public.’

View from Millbank in original planning application (slide right) and revised (slide left)

However, the scheme’s many critics remain unconvinced. Heritage watchdog Historic England said that, while the pavilion was a ‘better design’, it ‘did not fundamentally change the scale of the memorial’ nor its impact on the site. The Royal Parks said its main concerns had also not been addressed.

The Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign also remains opposed to the plans. Barbara Weiss, an architect and member of the group, said the ’chaotic, piecemeal and expensive’ redesign had only made things worse.

The redesign sees the original boxy entrance pavilion replaced with a ‘lighter, more transparent’ structure. In a design statement lodged with planners, the architects describe it as a ‘more congenial building’, comprising a series of ‘spaced stone columns’.

In addition to objections from the UK branch of Icomos (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) and The Royal Parks, the scheme has also received many letters of support.

A letter signed by 174 MPs and peers has backed the memorial, included Kindertransport refugee and Labour peer Alf Dubs and Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has also thrown his weight behind the proposals, saying he was ‘deeply concerned’ at the prospect that it could be rejected.

UK Holocaust memorial charities the Holocaust Educational Trust and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust have also backed the project, while a letter of support has been sent by the rabbis of nine Westminster synagogues. 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Mrs May:
    Not very bright and lacking in judgment
    This is not a great endorsement

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  • Very unfortunate if May, Cameron, Blair and Major add their weight to the people pushing this ill-considered project.
    Both the concept of an effective Holocaust memorial and education centre, and the existing Victoria Tower Gardens, deserve better.

    The relatively fragile gardens with their fringe of in-scale monuments and memorials have already been nibbled at to create the temporary (?) Parliamentary Education Centre (Feilden and Mawson, 2015).
    One edifice that currently 'steps out of line' is the Buxton Memorial Fountain to the abolition of slavery in the British empire, and this might be seen as reflecting the relative importance of that momentous event.

    When it comes to James Brokenshire's support for the current proposals - against the advice of the Royal Parks, Historic England and Icomos - 'A sacred national mission' 'to preserve the truth forever' in May's words - he might reflect on the fact that the Holocaust was not of this country's doing, whereas the inadequately understood and largely forgotten (or maybe swept under the carpet) true role that the horrors of slavery played in the widespread enrichment of our country over a long period of time (and contribution to our architectural heritage) would surely be at least as deserving of the establishment of a national memorial and learning centre.
    But when it comes to preserving the truth forever this would undoubtedly be less politically convenient.

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  • bruh

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