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Protests at unveiling of latest designs for Adjaye’s Holocaust Memorial

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Opponents of David Adjaye’s controversial national Holocaust Memorial in Westminster staged a demonstration yesterday afternoon outside a public launch of the scheme’s latest designs

A group of around 20 people picketed the event at London’s Convocation Hall in protest over the £100 million landmark, which they say is the ‘right idea, wrong location’ and should not be built at Victoria Tower Gardens.

The latest designs by Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad were unveiled at the public exhibition which runs until 8 September. They retain the 23 bronze fins and subterranean learning centre but address concerns over security with a new entrance pavilion and courtyard.

Other minor changes include enhancement of green space, including the creation of a slope to improve views of the river and Houses of Parliament, new seating and pathways along the river bank.

But the changes have not placated critics, who argue the project should not be built on the gardens at all. 

Speaking outside the event, Josephine Dunn of Save Victoria Tower Gardens said: ’‘We are protesting not against the memorial or the idea of Holocaust education or learning centre but we doubt that the location is the right one.

‘London parks are very precious, there are very few of them, and they need to be protected.’

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Source: Ella Jessel

But housing secretary James Brokenshire, speaking at the launch, defended the project’s location. 

‘There can be no more powerful symbol of our commitment to remembering the men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators than placing the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens,’ he said.

‘The Holocaust Memorial will stand as a stark reminder that a central role of democracy is to encourage tolerance for ethnic, religious and racial differences and fostering religious freedom, individual rights and civil responsibility.’

In response to protesters’ concerns over the building on the gardens, the project’s lead architect, Lucy Tilley, said that 85 per cent of the green space had been retained:

‘Next to the Houses of Parliament is the right place to have this memorial,’ she added. ‘The successful thing that we as a practice have done is managed to retain a lot of the green and usable areas of the park. We worked really hard to maintain that.’

Tilley, who is associate principal at Adjaye Associates, said the design team had added the pavilion after it began to look in detail at security and the management of visitor numbers to the site. 

Speaking to the AJ after the event, she said: ‘Before we had an open memorial in the park where you could walk into the learning centre. Now you have a courtyard which is a moment of reflection in the memorial, a garden within a garden’, she said. 

Former MPs Ed Balls and Eric Pickles, co-chairs of UK Holocaust Memorial, the foundation backing the project, also spoke in support of the project’s Westminster location, as well as shadow defence secretary, Emily Thornberry who said the memorial should stand as a daily reminder of what can happen if we forget the lessons of history. 

But Thornberry’s appearance at the event was criticised by Agnes Grunwald-Spier, 74, who survived the Holocaust as a baby, and took to the stage after the speeches.

Referring to Labour’s current antisemitism row, she said: ‘It’s pie in the sky to believe that having a memorial centre is going to solve something, when we don’t seem to be able to solve the problem in her majesty’s opposition.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Yes, the memorial should be built - but if it's to be in such a prominent location, in a small and precious park, it can't be just a memorial to the WW2 Holocaust - anyone doubting that should catch up with Lyse Doucet's report from Sinjar at 8.49.15 this morning on BBC R4 'Today'. And remember Srebrenica?
    If the narrow view of James Brokenshire, Ed Balls, Eric Pickles and Emily Thornberry really does reflect the public and parliamentary consensus, then the memorial really should be found an appropriate location elsewhere; and this should not be the only memorial.
    And, in terms of appalling tragedies that we must learn from, the Rt Hon The Lord Pickles - the UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues - has presumably reflected on his actions / inactions as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following the Lakanal House holocaust, well before he was appointed a Knight Bachelor and before the Grenfell Tower holocaust, and his nomination this year for a Life Peerage.

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  • Very liberal use of the word “holocaust” Robert? But Pickles is a pointless arse, and did little except occupy a seat in government?

    It does look an interesting building, but let’s widen it’s uses, and let’s hope the next few months don’t result in more destruction in Syria. Assad+Russians+Iran against Jihadists with civilians in the middle. Could the signs be any worse?

    If you walk down that part of the Embankment there a monument to a forgotten Victorian hero or heroine, battle or cause every 50metres. It reminds me of the shrine to the unknown God in Athens, remarked on by St Paul in one of his letters.

    Yes, let’s do it, but make it useful and meaningful for the widest group of people. Starting with the genocides of WW2, but also subsequent atrocities, wherever they have happened? Ireland, Palestine, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, N Korea, Cambodia? And can we do more to stop this? Syria? Venezuela?

    Use this monument to provide the Oxygen of publicity, and optimism that we can prevent these tragedies in the present and future??

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