the design by architects Chloe Town *02 and Janette Kim *01
for an addition to the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San
Francisco evokes the devastation of the disease and the promise
of renewal. At right: Town, on left, and Kim. (Courtesy Janette
Kim *01 and Chloe Town *02)
stark tribute to those lost N.Y. architects design
stirring AIDS memorial
Terrible things happen, and afterward, memorials to the victims
are built. But how does society acknowledge the lives lost in an
event, such as the AIDS epidemic, that has yet to end? This is the
question that New York City architects Janette Kim *01 and Chloe
Town *02 were tackling when they entered the winning proposal in
last year’s competition to design a new memorial feature for
the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco’s Golden
Gate Park. Most memorials are about “singular events,”
says Town, “but the AIDS crisis is ongoing.”
The answer they came up with is a wasteland.
Kim and Town aim to introduce into the grove a seemingly charred
expanse of black carbon-fiber poles of various heights meant to
resemble burned trees, “inspired by the landscapes of forest
fires common throughout northern California,” say the architects
in their design statement. The grove is a seven-acre section of
the park, with benches and circular paths, that provides a quiet
place for people to contemplate the toll AIDS has taken. Kim and
Town’s design, chosen in April from among 200 submissions,
evokes the devastation of AIDS and the promise of renewal, characterized
by the regeneration of flora that occurs at forest-fire sites. The
designers incorporated fern seedlings pushing through the rubble,
for example, into their plan.
The idea for such a desolate space, titled “Living Memorial,”
sprang from the architects’ desire to produce a kind of ground
zero for the soul, to have visitors “start from a sense of
depletion,” says Kim. Town says their design also aimed to
create a space for reflection and self-awareness.
While Kim and Town had taken a studio course together while earning
master’s degrees in architecture and urban planning at Princeton,
the design competition was the first time they had worked as a team.
Town usually works with her husband at their practice, Parallel
City, based in Brooklyn. Kim has an architectural design and research
firm called All of the Above, based in Manhattan.
Whether “Living Memorial” is built depends on a financial-feasibility
study and subsequent fund-raising efforts. Over the next year and
a half, the passion ignited by the project will take Town and Kim
to three wildland fire sites around the country, where they will
continue investigating how wood changes structurally, aesthetically,
and ecologically when it burns.