MH17 Victims Honored with “Memorial in the Sky”

The winners of Matterbetter’s international Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) Memorial and Park ideas competition have been announced. Attracting 293 submissions worldwide, the competition hoped to inspire a new memorial park and public space at the Marine Establissement site in the center of Amsterdam that could be used as a place for remembrance, ceremonies, recreation, and private gatherings in honor of MH17’s victims.

MH17 was an international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down near the Ukraine–Russia border on July 17, 2014, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board.

MATTERBETTER has proposed to design an artificial island in the IJmeer in Amsterdam as a foundation for the MH17 Memorial. Because of its location the memorial has to be addressed to a broader public, as it will be visited by various groups of people. It should form a new public space – the place for remembrance, ceremonies, recreation, private gatherings and should become a vital point of the Amsterdam cultural infrastructure. The Memorial has to become an inviting place open for physical interaction, the place that honors remembrances, respect for life and a preservation of peace.

It was decided that the MH17 Memorial site will accomodate a landscape park in addition to its main purpose in order to become a green axis that will connect the Old Center and the North of Amsterdam and strengthen the location that is reclaimed from the water – symbolizing traditional collaboration of the Dutch people with the nature.
Winner – 1st place / Memorial in the Sky

William Smith, Hiroshi Kaneko / US

The experience of mourning is a complex process. We strive therefore to create not an artifact or Architecture to be observed, but instead an evolving platform of experiences. A sunken dais, floating just below the IJ’s surface, filled with a shallow layer of water, acts as mirror to the sky by calming the waters to a perfect plane. Radiating atolls of native Dutch plants will grow and provide life for migratory birds, insects, and aquatic species. Slender, tall columns offer a fixed condition to juxtapose the amorphic geometry of the clouds and the growth of the trees over time. “Memorial in the sky” brings us closer to the event of MH17 by means of a spatial empathy. The visitor is transported to a new spatial realm, floating between the clouds, the sun, the columns, and the trees, where they may walk, sit, play, dream, and remember with those lost in the sky aboard flight MH17. Where MH17 ended with profound loss, we begin this memorial with the creation of life.


Jury Comments
The water is the protagonist, the main architectural elements in this proposal. One is drawn into priding the minimal man‐made intervention and maximum exploitation of the native presence on site: the water. The presentation speaks of re‐generation and, to some, it is about life and mostly hope to find consolation in nature, in people, in the way this world is managed. These ideas, so truly interfacing with nature, appear to set the seeds for something new to come. To some, this proposal communicates a reassuring message: we have come to the realization that something serious has been lost forever. How can we design hope? How can we stimulate the search for compassion and encouragement? Perhaps contributing to generate life in the middle of the Ijmeer can console us and induce hope: this is a public space and it gives everyone the possibility to consume it. The presentation is nice, essential, well done, and emotional. The lined‐up chairs are breathtaking; the image moves one inside that MH17 and makes us feel the hopeless despair of being stuck in the moment. It is sudden, it is fast, it is unthinkable, it is hopeless… it is the end while feeling still alive. This proposal allows for solitary pain (all senses open up in water). With the same intensity, the pain is a shared experience when occupying one of the vacant 298 chairs in the memorial. – Cristina Cassandra Murphy

Although water is used to serve as the site for this proposal, the focus is the vastness of the sky. It is about what is missing, what remains absent. There is a fragility being presented in terms of walking in the middle of a large expanse of water, where one is highly vulnerable to the weather and to nature. The memorial creates an unsettling sensation which provides the design with the most incredible strength. – Eric Schuldenfrei

“Experence through the space” was placed at the mission statement of the competition and this proposal reflects this at the best way. It is not about a imposed construction or an artificial intention. It’s about giving time and opening to the people be part of a new configuration of space and the spirit of the place merge with the intention of the memorial. Some times the architects have some need of being the center of the attraction, but in this specific case the “no architecture” is more respectful and more sublime. – Juliano Monteiro

Winner – 2nd place / Floating Lights Memorial
Meaghan Hunter, Kristen Struthers, Danielle Loeb / Canada

The park is an immense mantle of stars that caresses the river… by nightfall the epiphany occurs: 298 lights emerging from the darkness wingless, bodiless… solemn and silent a Black Box seems to disappear into the darkness ,commemorating those who are gone.

The architectural logic conceptually articulate three elements: a zigzag line, a level constituated by a weave of Lights and a large dark bulk.


Jury Comments
Transforming throughout the year, the memorial acknowledges the catastrophe in a cyclical manner. Giving prominence to the month of the disaster adds emphasis for those remembering it, marking the years taken away from individual’s lives. To visit the memorial during the brief time in July when the linear axis is complete and when the trees form a memorial ground establishes a specific time for reflection. The rest of the year the components drift apart again and the memorial intentionally becomes incomplete and incomprehensible. – Eric Schuldenfrei

Quite, serene, yet constantly changing. This scheme enables infinite interpretations and reflections of the tragic event while providing a beautiful park space for the city. During the anniversary season (namely July), the full memorial experience reveals itself while also providing a large, contiuous common space for mass gatherings. Conversely, during the other months, smaller gatherings and individual journeys are experienced, further attenuated by the separation of segments – establishing a tangible relationship with time and place. While they are not emphasized, one could imagine the auxillary spaces being tucked beneath the segments or anchored at the ends, allowing full access to the landscape/forrest.- Julie Beckman

Very delicate design, based upon time lapse as the leading concept for memory and tribute. Not a single object, but the whole development work as the requested memorial, creating beautiful contemporary spaces that change trough the year, also carrying poetic approaches to the challenges at stake. Both the sunken axis and the tree park relate to its urban and symbolic functions in a peculiar way, at the same time strong, but discreet and appropriate to the urban scale. The user can choose whether to stay at the park, enjoying the city view, or meditating on a more reserved space, that carries a strong relation to nature trough the water and trees.- Sergio Ekerman

Concept is the key word to this project. Gives a little less attention to the technical information to present a powerfull way to exercise the interior reflection of what we see from ours selfs in the words landscape. With a half buried walk space, totally surrounded with reflected material, the visitant must find a pretty deep meaning for the life that is presented to us every day. The moving park cares for more technical explanations but brings to the concept a possibility of having a always modified surround. – Juliano Monteiro

Winner – 3rd place / Arrival & Departure
Fabian Tolosa, Ariel Perea, Ignacio Pereyra / UK & Argentina

Public memorials act as gathering spaces for commemoration and healing for all. As time passes, the immediacy of pain and grief surrounding the tragedy subsides but the memory of the public consciousness should never fade. Memorials continually tell the story of an event and of lives lost long after the first hand accounts have disappeared. Similar to the hour hand of a clock, the movement of the segments would be unperceivable to the users experiencing the island landscape, yet still effectively mark the passage of time throughout the year for the citizens of Amsterdam.

With a simple gesture of movement, the design is able to shift in the fundamental intentions for each use: the act of looking inward to the central sunken axis and forest during time of self reflection and memorial, and in contrast, the act of looking outward to the city and the water during time of activity and leisure. As the island separates, a sheltered forest becomes playful segments surrounded by water. The experience shifts from that of meandering through a forest to one of walking along a thin path fully immersed in views of the city and opportunities to engage with the water.

Arrival and Departure seeks to emphasize the invaluable qualities of a memorial while challenging the conventional idea of a memorial landscape park. The proposed design juxtaposes park and memorial in a continually shifting relationship, that creates a dichotomy of use and meaning.


Jury Comments:
Formed out of a field condition, the memorial of lights is a series of individual moments that create a larger constellation. Altering its reading from day toward the evening, it is remarkable how the focal point of the memorial shifts from the solid mass of the black box to an ephemeral landscape of lights as it becomes dusk. This proposal does so much with so little and it is the sequences of spaces where it is the most convincing. In the black box there is a constant building of claustrophobia that is created. There is a sense of further introspection upon walking up the ramp toward the sky and standing above the site observing the memorial below. – Eric Schuldenfrei

Nice poster that literally draws you in it and leads you through the process of pain: the concept is straight forward, linear, and agreeable. The message and the elements used to express it are powerful yet quite, crude yet gentle, fairytale‐like yet real. Once can easily associate himself with the catharsis in process. There is water, a path, and a monolithic block. Three essential architectural moments aspiring to become a monument, a place where people can express their more intimate commitment to life. And there are two variables: candles and people. The first is moved by the natural elements of water, wind, and the second by feelings, interests, excitements. The design is an escalation of awareness: from initial numbness and disbelieve, to painful acknowledgment, support, comfort, and information. Well positioned within the water, the walkway is an extension of Amsterdam where the monolith almost becomes a silent, new presence in the urban‐scape. – Cristina Cassandra Murphy

This proposal is not strictly speaking using architectural media to mark the memorial. The use of lighting, in a humble and abstract manner, together with a minimalist architectural centerpiece, this project is noteworthy for its elegance and restraint. – Tom Verebes

The ethereal feeling created by the light settlement over the water follows a strong design decision, conveying central role for the memorial at an urban scale. A new site is created by “virtual” borders, defining a contemporary approach to the challenge, also inserting a new horizontal element to the landscape with great skill, once new visuals may come out for people both at the water and at the opposite margins. The building itself correctly assumes light, either natural or artificial, as the central element for enriching the memorial experience, crafting its capacity to move people visiting and paying tribute. – Sergio Ekerman

Dualism. The promenade of this project is it’s force. It is a one shot experience. The garden of lights on the outside is “quiet” and gives the visitor a transition and kind of preparation for the real deal that is all on the build it self. The construction is it’s best. The finest execution of the entries for the cinematography light, but lacks from the connection to the city. – Juliano Monteiro

There is unsurpassed simplicity embedded in this proposal. The serenity of the array of floating lights juxtaposed against the severity of the black monolithic building is very powerful. The building, while severe, does not overwhelm the site and provides ample interior space for individual reflection and large gatherings. The simplicity of the building plan is also appreciated – allowing for maximum interpretation of the tragic event as well as the place’s uses and functions. – Julie Beckman

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