Should the new London Holocaust memorial sit next to Parliament? the debate rages on…
What began as a sincere effort to create a new memorial to those murdered by the Nazis has spiralled into a dogged back-and-forth about whether or not it should be built and where. Announced by David Cameron in January 2014, the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre was set to stand in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, in the Grade II-listed Victoria Tower Gardens. A Government press release referred to its location as a "permanent reminder that political decisions have far-reaching consequences". Approval on the planning application was supposed to be decided upon by the end of September, but has, understandably, been delayed.
The opposition came when the scale of the memorial and building were revealed late last year, designed by British architect David Adjaye and Israeli architect Ron Arad. Originally (see video above) this comprised of 23 bronze fins jutting out of the ground, the spaces in between them representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were destroyed during the Holocaust, plus a sunken courtyard. The plans were revised (see images) in May, but have failed to placate the objectors, which includes Royal Parks, the charity that manages the green space, among many others UK-wide, and Save Victoria Tower Gardens, a grassroots campaign set up by local residents.
The main argument from SVTG is that the site is inappropriate, stating "it's the only park beside the Thames in central London. It is much used and loved by office workers, local residents and tourists." The Environment Agency added that the "proposed development is likely to adversely affect the construction and stability of the flood defence and surrounding areas will be highly susceptible to rapid inundation.” Royal Parks, meanwhile, said they "strongly support" the project, but feel it will have a "significant harmful impact on the character and function of the park" and the structure will "eclipse the existing listed memorials, which are nationally important in their own right.”
Currently the garden is home to Rodin's Burghers of Calais, which represents freedom from oppression, AG Walker's statue of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and The Buxton Memorial, which was designed by Samuel Sanders Teulon and erected to celebrate the abolition of slavery, as well as the work of 19th-century MP and tireless campaigner Thomas Fowell Buxton.
As the dispute rages on, a new planning deadline is yet to be set and campaigners on both sides of the debate have set up petitions. Should the memorial go ahead as planned? What if a less obtrusive design was submitted? Would it be better built elsewhere or not at all? The questions continue to arise. If you want to make your answers heard, you can have your say via the Westminster City Council website or by signing the for and against petitions, details of which can be found below.
By Danielle Goldstein
Save Victoria Tower Gardens petition.