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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

National echoes underscore the power of a memorial to the victims of a mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

FROM THE APRIL 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since at least the 1870s, Tucson’s El Presidio Plaza, located between the Pima County Superior Court and Tucson City Hall, has been a place of gathering, commemoration, and civic participation. Numerous monuments and memorials—to the original presidio, to veterans of World War II, to John F. Kennedy—dot the mostly paved plaza. The latest, and largest, memorial is titled The Embrace, and it commemorates the mass shooting on January 8, 2011, in which then-Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six people, including a federal judge, were killed.

Designed by the Los Angeles-based architecture and landscape firm Chee Salette with the visual artist Rebeca Méndez, the memorial uses the language of landscape to create spaces of reflection while also preserving the historic civic axis between the courthouse and city hall. It consists of a mirrored pair of angular reflecting pools protected by rising berms that feature bands of Mt. Moriah stone and native Sonoran plantings. In the spaces created by the berms, which extend toward one another like open arms, curved steel walls tell the story of the shooting through symbols rather than a traditional narrative. From a distance, the tapered landforms frame the entrance to the courthouse. “It’s like a collar, framing the face,” says Tina Chee, ASLA, who runs the firm with her husband, Marc Salette. (more…)

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