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Survivors group hits out at Orlando massacre memorial scheme

Pulse Nightclub, Orlando
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Survivors of the 2016 Orlando nightclub massacre in Florida have demanded cancellation of the project to build a memorial on the site, for which a shortlist was announced earlier this summer

Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum, which also includes members of victims’ families and gay rights activists, said funds should be directed towards supporting survivors rather than ‘educating tourists’.

The contest for the memorial, curated by Dovetail Design Strategists on behalf of the onePULSE Foundation, received 168 submissions from 19 countries.

London-based landscape architect Gustafson Porter + Bowman was named among six finalists for the $45 million project as part of a team led by Dublin practice Heneghan Peng Architects.

The shortlist was completed by five international teams led by New York duo Studio Libeskind and Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Rotterdam-based MVRDV; French firm Coldefy & Associés; and Boston’s MASS Design Group.

The scheme would deliver a memorial at the site of the shooting, a museum nearby and a ‘Survivors Walk’ commemorating the victims.

But the coalition against the scheme said in a statement: ‘We are fighting to stop the construction of the OnePULSE Foundation’s museum.

‘We humbly ask the public, as well as all private and corporate donors, to give their money to organisations that provide lifetime care to survivors and not towards the expensive museum project. Put people first. We care more about our survivors than educating tourists.’

The body said all fundraising associated with the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub, which killed 49 people and wounded 68 others, should be directed towards providing lifetime care to survivors.

‘All funds raised should be used to expand existing services and ensure that all survivors get the financial support, medical services, community support programmes and mental health care they need for life,’ it said.

The onePULSE Foundation said it was following the model used following other tragedies including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

In a statement it said: ‘The memorial will be free, while the museum will charge a modest admission, which will go to keep up the museum and the memories of those it honours.

‘The memorial will ensure there is always a free space for any visitor to reflect on the tragedy and honour of those who were victims. The museum will tell the story of the victims, the tragedy, the community’s response and provide a world-class education centre to learn from the lessons of hate so they aren’t repeated.

‘Without a museum, there is no place to tell the story for future generations and we risk the tragedy being erased entirely over time.’

Foundation chief executive Barbara Poma and nightclub owner said earlier this summer: ‘Three years after the tragedy, the world continues to stand in solidarity with our community and in support of the 49, the survivors and the first responders. This is reflected in the significant response to our competition announcement and the interest from architects and designers from around the world.’

Dovetail Design Strategists president Susanna Sirefman said when the shortlist was announced: ‘The selected teams’ submissions were notably moving in their display of empathetic sensibilities combined with a deep understanding of the complexity and urban scale of this project. The competition was designed to realise both. We are excited to see what this outstanding shortlist of six teams develop in the next stage of the competition.’

The finalists will each receive $50,000 to draw up design concepts.

The nightclub’s owner created the onePULSE Foundation to create a fitting memorial and museum for all those affected following the attack.

The project is planned to complete in 2022. The 2,800m² museum providing an ‘architecturally iconic place for remembrance, education, inspiration and hope’ and including public gathering and community spaces.

Survivors Walk will connect important local landmarks associated with the tragedy, while the memorial will be open to the public ’year-round, seven days a week, 24-hours a day’.

Gustafson Porter + Bowman declined to comment. Heneghan Peng was also approached for a response.

An overall winner is due to be announced in October.

The full shortlist

  • Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Xavier Veilhan, dUCKS scéno, Agence TER, Prof. Laila Farah
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects with Raymond Jungles, Inc.
  • Heneghan Peng Architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, Sven Anderson & Pentagram
  • MASS Design Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Sasaki, Sanford Biggers, Richard Blanco, Porsha Olayiwola
  • MVRDV, Grant Associates, GSM Project and Studio Drift
  • Studio Libeskind with Claude Cormier + Associés, Thinc, and Jenny Holzer
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