January 8 Memorial Competition

January 8 Memorial Competition

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Year Completed: Unbuilt

Client: January 8th Memorial Foundation


The early morning of January 8, 2011 was a tragic day for Tucson and the nation.

Shots were fired outside a neighborhood grocery store where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was holding Congress on your Corner. After the lone gunman was tackled, six people lay dead, thirteen lay wounded and the Tucson community lay shattered.

Soon after the violence, citizens rose up peacefully. Individuals made their way from near and far to lend a hand, to support each other in inspiring acts of unity and love.

People gathered spontaneously in support of the victims outside the busy hospital. They arrived with candles throughout the night; each new flame added to the collective spirit of hope and unity as we waited for news.

This collective experience inspired our proposal. A memorial designed to honor and commemorate the lives of the people taken that day, and the lives of those forever changed. Our proposal celebrates that spontaneous community response, and creates a place to contemplate social responsibility and civic discourse.

Accompanying the memorial design is a master plan capitalizing on the unique opportunity to transform a tired civic plaza in Tucson’s historic center.

Our master plan design reconnects the city’s nexus with its currently disjointed extensions at three levels. Firstly, Tucson’s historic center is reconnected with its historic neighborhoods. Secondly, the connection is strengthened between the municipal and cultural, and thirdly the idea connects the local community with the global.

The extent of the memorial design is boundless.

Throughout the greater community, slender cast metal and glass beacons await discovery. Their elliptical footprints point in a direction, toward a unifying center.

Downtown, the beacons are seen in greater frequency as if on a pilgrimage. We follow them around the historic courthouse.

There, countless beacons huddle in their greatest density.

The beacons are equal in length, but their lights vary in height according to the range of human eye levels. Each individual light is modest, but their collective light grows more luminous when huddled together.

Visitors find their own subtle reflections among the beacons’ surfaces as they weave their own path toward the center.

On the days that followed the shooting, without instruction or prescription, the community assembled. The arrangement of beacons represents that spontaneous coming together. Their density asks visitors to slow down and exercise reverence as they approach the center.

Moving through the huddle of beacons, visitors find the edge of an outer circle. In that circle, we are reminded that we stand among a community in its healing strength.

The earth is dented, as if from a violent impact.

A ring of sky and earth honors 19 beacons. 13 stand outside a cast metal basin that holds previous nights’ rains. 6 are bathed in that water among the wildflowers that have sprouted over time.

The 13 are the same as those that led visitors here.

The 6 are not like the rest, all glass and light.

Their glowing energy radiates strength to the circle.

Etched within their glass bodies are inscriptions. Each one aligned at the height of each victim’s eye level.

They remind us to live in their spirit:

“More helpful, like Gabe Zimmerman

More devoted, like Dorwin Stoddard

More kind, like Phyllis Schneck

More fair, like Judge John Roll

More loving, like Dorothy “Dot” Morris”

Visitors kneel to a 9 year old’s eye level to read: 

More hopeful, like Christina Taylor Green”.

Visitors exit the aromatic creosote garden through which they entered.

Creosote is the plant that flooded this site long before it was settled. Creosote is the way the rain smells in this thirsty landscape. It is the aroma of life, of hope, and relief.

This memorial helps us remember the compassion and love we were called upon to demonstrate on that terrible day, to remember that together, we are more powerful than anything that seeks to hurt us.

For more information about the January 8th Foundation and competition, visit their website at: http://www.tucsonsmemorial.org

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