Commit to Memory

9/11 memorial museum entrance

I was sitting in the car, the english countryside zooming past my face, and all I thought about was - I must remember the colors, the angle of the sun hitting so perfectly, and the exhilarating wind tangling my hair, this moment will never return. I was 8 years old, we were on our annual visit to the UK to meet friends and family. It was not an unusual or spacial trip, but from that moment on in my life, I have this nagging persistence to commit it all to memory, before that moment might be gone. 

I don't know how to design for memory or loss, and that is why I find many memorial museums and memorial sites so intriguing. It's such an intricate balance between conveying a message that will reside in peoples hearts without making them feel rejected, or that the memory of a loved one has not been overlooked. It is even harder to imagine how to convey these messages of private sorrow and loss, when they are part of very public national or international events.  I grew up in Israel, a country that is constantly morning the loss of young lives, and that is burdened by the incredible loss of its people during the holocaust. A place where every rock you dig up has the explosive potential of toppling any type of balance achieved. In Jerusalem I was surrounded by historical and contemporary memorials, from the Western Wall to Mt. Herzl Cemetery. One of the places I played the most when I was a kid, was the Jerusalem Forest at the foothills of the Mt. Herzl Cemetery adjacent to Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial museum of Israel. It probably triggered a curiosity in me that still lingers on. How does one design for memory? How does one pick out the right words to write, and figure out the font that will be used? Pick out the right lighting, color? Create the most inclusive narrative? Curate the right items to be displayed? Make a memorial stay relevant as time passes by? I'm not sure there is a right answer to such an intimate thing as creating a memory.  

Jerusalem Westren Wall

The most powerful memorials that stayed with me along the years were the ones that maintained a sophisticated simplicity. Sites such as the 9/11 memorial where the missing buildings footprints portray the enormity of the loss, the Vietnam war memorial that has managed to leave out the controversy of the war, the children's memorial at Yad Vshem where light is used as a powerful tool forever immortalizing the lost spirits of 1.5 million jewish children, the cemented hole with olive tree splinters at the buchenwald death camp. These are sites that resonated with me, allowed me to morn a loss without judgement, they were humbling sites that created true moments of reflection. These places are committed to my collective memory. 

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