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UNESCO objects to Adjaye’s ‘dominating’ Holocaust Memorial


UNESCO’s adviser on world heritage sites has become the latest body to object to Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects’ proposals to build a Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens 

A planning application is under consideration by Westminster Council for the memorial and learning centre, which is proposed for the small park near the Houses of Parliament.

But the project has proved highly controversial and the UK branch of Icomos – UNESCO’s International Council on Monuments and Sites – has joined the growing number of high-profile objectors.

In a letter, the advisory body said the memorial would ‘dominate’ the gardens and detract from how Westminster World Heritage Site (WHS) – on its list since 1987 – is experienced.

By interrupting views of the tower and palace, the WHS would be ‘fundamentally compromised’ by the new memorial, it said, adding: ‘The current plans would result in the gardens being dominated by the memorial, its bulky entrance pavilion, enclosed forecourt and hard landscaping, as well as the forecast one million visitors a year.’ 

It follows opposition from the charity that manages London’s royal parks, which argued the site was not an ‘appropriate location’ for the project given the impact it will have on a public amenity space in an area of London with few green spaces. 

Other objectors include the Environment Agency, which warned the memorial would destabilise flood defences, and Historic England’s archaeology specialists. 

The government-backed memorial project has also faced significant opposition from local residents who argue the memorial will ‘destroy a treasured park’. 

Save Victoria Gardens (SVTG) has led the campaign against the project, with 697 objections now lodged with Westminster’s planning authorities.

The campaign’s co-founder, architect Barbara Weiss, said: ‘Undermining the tranquility and beauty of this park is integral to the design concept of the centre.

‘It is therefore no surprise that so many official bodies are raising profound concerns about placing such a deliberately disruptive design in this location.’

The plans have also met with opposition from Jewish parliamentarians, with eight Jewish peers all voicing opposition.

However last week 174 MPs and peers signed a letter last week in support of the proposal. They included Kindertransport refugee and Labour peer Alf Dubs and Luciana Berger, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Wavertree.

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

David Adjaye has repeatedly defended the project and its location. Speaking to The Times earlier this year, he infuriated opponents of the project by arguing that ‘disrupting’ the pleasure of being in a park is key to its thinking.

He said: ‘We have the opportunity to activate the entire site and talk directly to parliament, hold it accountable,’ he said. ‘Disrupting the pleasure of being in a park is key to the thinking.’

The design for the government-backed project includes 23 bronze fins, an entrance pavilion and an underground learning centre which will aim to improve visitors’ understanding of the Holocaust and its impact on Britain.

The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation has said the memorial would ‘provoke and challenge’ visitors to think about the impact of the Holocaust on our society, culture and Parliament.

FINAL: Designs for Adjaye Associates' Holocaust Memorial in Westminster

FINAL: Designs for Adjaye Associates’ Holocaust Memorial in Westminster

FINAL: Designs for Adjaye Associates’ Holocaust Memorial in Westminster


Readers' comments (2)

  • Unfortunately the controversy looks as if it's boiling up into a full-blown row, - but at least the UNESCO comments might reduce any temptation to accuse objectors of ant-semitism, in the current febrile political climate.

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  • Save Victoria Tower Gardens is delighted about the level of support that our campaign is currently getting on all fronts from conservation and environmental agencies - this before any planning policies are even brought into question, all of which clearly slam any thought of building in a park. We are however very keen to remind everyone that we do support the government project of building an inspiring Holocaust Memorial, and we believe strongly that education and outreach concerning the Holocaust need to be top of the agenda. OUR OBJECITON IS TO THE LOCATION. While we believe that the IWM would be a good alternative site, we would welcome a new Centre in SW1 iF an appropriate site were to be found - one that isn't a park and where the new building would not be in conflict with our priceless historic assets.

    Barbara Weiss
    Co-founder Save Victoria tower Gardens Campaign

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