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Landscape Storytelling – Memorial to Victims of Violence

Memorial to Victims of Violence

Memorial to Victims of Violence, by Gaeta-Springall Arquitectos, Mexico City, Mexico. The power and importance of storytelling is a largely unrecognized force in landscape architecture. But it can be used to bring people together, learn about each other, and exchange experiences. Not all stories are easy to tell, however, and stories about violence might be some of the most unpleasant. Why would someone want to hear or tell stories about violence? How can such stories be told? Violence is one of the most important issues facing Mexico City, where it plays a role in Mexican society and in the daily life of the city’s people. Violence in the city has to be processed and discussed. Gaeta-Springall Arquitectos chose to address this theme by telling a story through a successful landscape design in Chapultepec Park, an enormous park that reminds us of Central Park in New York City.

Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects Taken in Year: 2015. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

Memorial to Victims of Violence

In addition to a zoo, a castle, an anthropology museum, and areas for walking, jogging, and cycling, the park is home to the Memorial to Victims of Violence. The memorial provides an opportunity to continue the open story about victims of violence while interacting with other people and with nature.

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexic

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

What is the point of Storytelling? Storytelling in landscape architecture has a number of unperceived positive aspects. Through stories, learning processes can evolve and visions can be shown. Storytelling encourages dialogue in conflict situations, and the resulting interaction leads to social improvement. Furthermore, a story is characterized by the potential for generalizability, from which every one of us can learn or use in future projects.
Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

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Let’s figure out the meaning of the Memorial to Victims of Violence by taking a look at some of the components of a classical story: the plot, the characters, the setting, the conflict, and the resolution.

Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

The Story of “Memorial to Victims of Violence”

The Plot

On a 15,000-square-meter site, three main elements – steel, water, and light – were assembled to form the plot of the story. The steel is present through 70 wall surfaces, both rusty and mirroring. Consequently, the suggestion of violence can be seen in two dimensions: the void created between the steel walls and trees that evokes the absence of the victims; and the build — the surfaces of the steel walls themselves.

Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall ArchitectsTaken in Year: 2015. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

Water plays a major role in the central space: The pool reflects the steel walls, drawing the eyes to the sky. The reflective pool — with an undetermined form, open geometry, and unfinished form — merges with the other two elements. As visitors stroll through the 70 towering steel walls, LED strips suggest safety and offer spatial orientation. Amid dense areas of native trees, downlights illuminate walkways and uplights project onto trees. Underwater LEDs in the reflecting pool make the water look fresh and bright. The created atmosphere suggests a dialogue between architecture and nature, between a forest of walls and forests of trees. These forms give the feeling of openness and acceptance.
Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects . Taken in Year: 2015. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

The Characters

Good stories don’t just have a good plot; their impact lies in how the plot is accepted by relevant actors. The most significant feature of the rusted steel slabs is that people can write on them with chalk. The created interaction allows interior voices to be heard. In this way, different people have the chance to leave a conglomeration of messages – to the loved, to violence, to political slogans, etc.

A Chance to Process Your Own Memories

Present in a metaphorical way, the main character is represented by the many victims of violence, who are the reason for this landscape design project. Even if the main character has an important role, Gaeta-Springall Arquitectos expands the presented importance on the people strolling through the memorial by giving them the chance to process their memories or to share feelings and emotions with other people.

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Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

The Setting and the Conflict

Located in the most important park of Mexico City – Bosque de Chapultepec – the story about the victims of violence is also elevated in importance. At more than 686 hectare, Bosque de Chapultepec is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. With this project, 15,000 square meters of public space was recuperated from the forest belonging to the federal government.

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

The BIGGER Picture Looking at the bigger picture, we can see that the Memorial to Victims of Violence is located in Mexico City, well-known for its drug war that has accounted for more than 60,000 deaths between 2006 and 2012. The existing conflicts concerning issues of violence are merged through the reflection. The entire design is becoming a canvas where visitors expose, write, and draw their conflictual feelings. That means that there is not only one conflict, but multiple conflicts and unique personal struggles.
Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2015. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

The Resolution

The project plays the double role of public space and memorial, a feature that makes it more successful and beloved. Gaeta-Springall Arquitectos addresses one of the most important issues of contemporary Mexican society — violence – through a story. The resolution is that everyone has access to this “landscape design story” by the use of different elements and interactions. Thus, this memorial is a powerful study in storytelling. Nevertheless a question remains: How can such projects of storytelling in landscape design be multiplied?

Victims of Violence in Mexico

Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico, by Gaeta Springall Architects. Taken in Year: 2013. Photo credit: Sandra Pereznieto.

Full Project Credits for Memorial to Victims of Violence

Project name: Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico Completion date: April, 2013 Location: Mexico City (Mexico) Designer: Gaeta Springall Architects (Julio Gaeta / Luby Springall) Photographer: Sandra Pereznieto Area: 15,000 m2 Show on Google Maps

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Article by Ruth Coman

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