Trans-Atlantic Slavery Memorial

A proposal for Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA: made in collaboration with Shane Neufeld, in response to the Monument Avenue General GD/GD ideas competition.

Spanning the approximate 4,000 feet between the existing monument to Robert E. Lee to the east and that of Stonewall Jackson Monument to the west, our proposal is in essence a spatial timeline of a data-set - recording the number of people who embarked from Africa to the Americas throughout the entirety of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1516 -1866). However this data is transfigured through our design into a path, a park, and an experiential space of memory, reflection, and acknowledgement of a vastly important and shared history.

Unlike the existing confederate statues that cast shadows throughout the day, our proposal illuminates Monument Avenue at night, bringing into focus the collective sum and scale of the slave trade and transforming it into a singular phenomenological experience. On the scale of the individual, each embarked person is represented abstractly as an aperture cut from a single bronze plate. Beneath each plate is a light source that illuminates the apertures. The collective experience of 12.5 million points of light is simultaneously chillingly factual yet also engaging, moving, and ultimately as transcendent as the stars in the sky: a constellation as beacon, that guides us forward, out of the darkness of our shared past, and into a brighter, clearer light.

In order to fabricate the memorial, we propose melting down the bronze from the existing monuments - as well as from others across the country - and reusing the material to forge 86,000 separate half inch thick plates, measuring 1 foot by 1 foot, each with 144 apertures that correspond to individuals.

Bookending the site to the east, and replacing the Robert E. Lee monument, is a new memorial complex consisting of an exhibition space, a park and a viewing platform where visitors have the opportunity to look out upon the Trans-Atlantic Slavery Memorial from above (with the aim to elevate people - not statues). The platform, transparent and constructed of glass, steel and wood, functions as a beacon - inserting itself as a new way-finding device within the city. The exhibition space is located underground beneath the park and is accessed by ramps that connect to the public park spanning Monument Avenue. Here, the memorialized panels’ function is inverted, as they become skylights - permitting sunlight to stream into the hall below.