The design for the United States Memorial at New Zealand's Pukeahu National War Memorial Park seeks to contribute to a timeless discourse on commemoration. The Vietnam Memorial forever changed the way we understand remembrance. Unlike memorials of the past, the Vietnam Memorial is not an object to be contemplated, instead it is a space to be experienced. Humility and simplicity are its guiding principles. As a result, its architecture is barely articulated and powerfully silent; it is the inscriptions on the stone that stir our memories and emotions. This profound method of commemoration forms the broader context for our project and informs our design approach.
Stone has always been central to how we think of commemoration. Its associations with permanence and its relationship to the ground makes it the most widely used material for monuments world-wide. With this project we used advanced fabrication tools to convey meaning and emotion not previously achieved in stone. Robotic fabrication has allowed us to precisely shape the stone and control its perception from multiple viewpoints. Visitors walking around the memorial will observe the powerful words dapple the surface, shaping their own landscape, and once they arrive at the end of the path, the words will achieve visual alignment and the full text can be understood.
The memorial is comprised of five slabs of American granite, each eleven feet wide. The final fabrication process has multiple stages: first, CNC circular saws make vertical cuts to form the initial jagged shapes; then, an industrial robot is used to mill the precise undulating forms; finally, the forms are smoothed out and the words engraved. Advanced methods of prototyping and robotic fabrication allowed us to achieve the precision and perspective alignment of the tabs in our design, delivering what we hope to be a powerful experience for visitors.
Location: Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington, New Zealand
Proprieter: American Battle Monuments Commission
Design Architect: MPdL Studio
Landscape Architect: Landworks Studio
Local Architect: KebbellDaish Architects
Structural Engineer: Spencer Holmes Ltd
Main Contractor: Field & Hall Ltd
Stone Fabricator: Quarra Stone Company