International Design Competition opens for new UK Holocaust Memorial beside Parliament

British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes the launch of the competition

View Of The Palace Of Westminster From Victoria Tower Gardens Day ©Malcolm Reading Consultants  Emily Whitfield Wicks

The UK government is today (14 September 2016) inviting designers, architects and artists from all over the world to enter an international design competition for a striking new National Memorial commemorating the Holocaust.

The competition, which was welcomed today by Prime Minister Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions, is the next step in creating a new national landmark in the heart of our democracy, next to Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens, London. It will demonstrate the UK’s commitment to honouring the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, providing a place for quiet reflection as well as large-scale national commemorations.

Following the recommendation of the cross-party UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, competition entrants are also being invited to incorporate designs for a possible accompanying below ground Learning Centre. This world-class centre would give visitors an immediate opportunity to learn more, contextualising the memorial, grounding it in historical fact as events fade from living memory and inspiring future generations to respect and embrace difference in the fight against hatred and prejudice.

The Learning Centre would also contain recordings of testimony from British Holocaust Survivors and Camp liberators, including unheard stories recently recorded as part of the Government’s drive to ensure survivors who have never spoken out before have their memories captured for posterity. The Centre would signpost visitors to the many further Holocaust educational resources that are available across the United Kingdom.

As a result, the international design competition launching today, organised by leading design competition specialists Malcolm Reading Consultants, is asking world-class design teams to submit initial expressions of interest in the project, with shortlisted teams then submitting two-part designs, the first fulfilling the minimum commitment of a striking new National memorial, and the second including the below ground Learning Centre which will be taken forward subject to technical, financial, planning or other constraints. An independent jury will be appointed to judge the competition. An exhibition of the finalists’ concept designs will be held in central London in January 2017 and will also be available to view online giving the general public an opportunity to view the entries and give their feedback. The winning design team will be announced in summer 2017.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today, Prime Minister Theresa May said:

‘We need to ensure that we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that must be learnt from it.
‘It is right that we have agreed this National Memorial, next to Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens. This will ensure that there will be opportunities for young people and others to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and the appalling atrocities that took place.’

Secretary of State for Communities and local government, Sajid Javid said:

‘I am honoured to be supporting the important work of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation. This memorial will pay tribute to all those that suffered and will act as a reminder of where prejudice and hatred can lead. We will only ever banish intolerance by changing minds and by spreading understanding.’

Chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation Sir Peter Bazalgette said:

‘This timely announcement means that so many British Holocaust survivors will witness the physical embodiment of this nation​’s commitment to remembrance. They can be safe in the knowledge that ​we will continue to stand up against prejudice and hatred.
‘Our vision is to create a landmark of national significance, highlighting the importance and relevance of the Holocaust to the United Kingdom’s history. The winning design must convey the magnitude of what happened in a meaningful way, inspire reflection and compassion, whilst encouraging future generations to respect and embrace difference.’

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis said:

‘This international design competition is a unique opportunity to enshrine the memory of the Shoah in British history for generations to come. It will shape how our children, and our children’s children find out about what happened during the Shoah and understand the importance of joining together to ensure it never happens again. The challenge is to create a sacred space for reflection, but also a place for learning in which people can take real meaning from history. I have no doubt that this competition will attract the quality of designs that this important memorial so richly deserves.’

Competition organiser, Malcolm Reading of Malcolm Reading Consultants, said:

‘There could hardly be a more precious or resonant setting for the Memorial. The competition is a global search for talent, for an inspired design team, who can bring the highest architectural skills to this emblematic site – within breathing distance of the Westminster UNESCO World Heritage Site and at the heart of democracy in the UK.
‘The successful shortlisted teams will need to excel in design, interpretation and landscape, and above all, combine a profound understanding of the project’s values with exceptional place making.’

A new National Memorial to the Holocaust, a Learning Centre and a number of wider education and commemoration projects including recording the testimony of Holocaust survivors, were originally recommended to the Government by the cross-party Holocaust Commission in January 2015, following extensive public consultation including one of the UK’s largest ever gatherings of Holocaust survivors. The Government accepted the recommendations in full and has committed £50 million as its contribution to the total project costs of the National Memorial, Learning Centre and additional wider educational work. It established the cross-party UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation to advise on the delivery of these recommendations.