UK Holocaust Memorial
The UK Holocaust Memorial is a planned memorial to the victims of the Holocaust that is intended to be built in the southern part of Victoria Tower Gardens in London, United Kingdom, close to the Houses of Parliament. The memorial is intended to honour the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, LGBT, and disabled people. The planned structure will take up to 27% of the green space currently in the park.
|Location||London, United Kingdom |
Location of UK Holocaust Memorial
UK Holocaust Memorial (Greater London)
UK Holocaust Memorial (the United Kingdom)
The memorial design was decided on through an international competition that had 92 entries, leading to 10 finalists that were decided on by a panel of 13 people comprising Peter Bazalgette (chair), Charlotte Cohen, Samantha Cohen, Daniel Finkelstein, Alice Greenwald, Ben Helfgott, Sajid Javid, Natasha Kaplinsky, Sadiq Khan, Ephraim Mirvis, Julia Peyton-Jones, Sarah Weir and Paul Williams.
In October 2017, it was announced that the competition was won by a team following the two-stage competition process. The team is led by the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye (through Adjaye Associates), with Ron Arad Architects as Memorial Architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as landscape architect.
The British government has allocated £50 million, later increased to £75 million, to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation (UKHMF) to support the construction of the memorial, which is now at an early design stage. Additional funding is being sought for the construction of the learning centre. The total project cost is an estimated £100 million.
The memorial would supplement, in London, the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial, opened in 1983, the permanent Holocaust exhibition of the Imperial War Museum and the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide and, in Nottinghamshire, the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre and The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre, Huddersfield. In August 2019, the Imperial War Museum announced plans to spend over £30m on a new set of galleries over two floors at its London site covering the Holocaust and its importance in World War II. The galleries are set to open in 2021 and will replace the existing permanent Holocaust exhibition. The Imperial War Museum was also a suggested site for the planned Holocaust memorial.
In January 2015, David Cameron announced on behalf of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation that there was to be a new UK Holocaust Memorial and associated Learning Centre built in central London. At that stage, three particular sites were proposed: the Imperial War Museum (IWM), near London City Hall, and the Millbank Tower podium. The Imperial War Museum was embarking on a renewal of its existing Holocaust galleries and saw an excellent opportunity to achieve all the goals of the Holocaust Commission, not least the education of this and future generations. The IWM commissioned a design from the architects Foster + Partners, which included a memorial garden, underground contemplation space and wall of remembrance, with the option of an underground extension to the existing Learning Centre.
However, the UKHMF wished to mount an architectural competition and regarded the IWM, less than one mile from the Houses of Parliament, as not being in Central London, so the IWM offer was turned down. Instead they undertook a search of over fifty locations and, in July 2016, it was announced that Victoria Tower Gardens, the smallest of London's Royal Parks, had been chosen for both the memorial and underground learning centre.
Victoria Tower Gardens is a public park along the north bank of the River Thames in London. It is adjacent to the Victoria Tower, the south-western corner of the Palace of Westminster and extends southwards from the Palace to Lambeth Bridge, sandwiched between Millbank and the river. Victoria Tower Gardens is a Grade II* listed park created in 1864–70 following the embankment of the Thames. It is in a Conservation Area, is partly within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Westminster, and is designated a zone of Monument Saturation.
The park is already home to three memorials that raise awareness of injustice, namely The Burghers of Calais, the Buxton Memorial Fountain and the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial. The project design team intends the project to be contextualised among these other memorials, but campaigners who oppose the destruction of parkland have objected that the Holocaust memorial is vastly different, in scale and nature, to the existing memorials.
The park is also home to a small children's playground and often plays host to temporary cultural events including the light installation spectra, by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, which commemorated the centenary of the start of the First World War, and outdoor film screenings. It is cherished by many as a surprisingly peaceful green space in the heart of London.
The proposed construction has been submitted for planning permission to Westminster City Council who will have to bear in mind their own rules on new monuments in this zone, the effect on heritage views of the Palace of Westminster and the Mayor of London's stated commitment to protect London's green spaces from development.
The project combines a memorial sculpture with an underground learning centre that will help to educate visitors about prejudice and discrimination. The Memorial consists of 23 bronze fins, with the gaps between the fins representing the 22 countries where the Holocaust destroyed Jewish communities, and acting as separate paths down to a hall named the 'Threshold' leading into the Learning Centre, along with a "contemplation court" and "hall of testimonies". A public consultation on the latest designs was held on 4–8 September 2018. Opponents to the construction of the memorial claim the design is linked to the Adjaye Associates' rejected Ottowa Holocaust Memorial application.
Opposition and concerns
As part of the planning process, Westminster city council launched a public consultation in regards to the memorial. Many authoritative bodies have replied. Several very critical comments by respected international and UK organisations sparked widespread media coverage in the British press. The official adviser to UNESCO on World Heritage Sites, ICOMOS, has objected to the Victoria Tower Gardens location saying the building would "interrupt substantially the key view of the Tower and Palace". It further says that two lines of trees may not survive the construction which "would have a massive visual impact." The Royal Parks, the body that administers many public parks in the UK, said in its planning objection that it "strongly supports" the principle of the project but believes its scale and design would have "significant harmful impacts" on the "character and function" of the park. The Environment Agency has raised concerns that the building could compromise flood defences crucial to local businesses and homes, saying: "The proposed development is likely to adversely affect the construction and stability of the flood defence [meaning that] surrounding areas will be highly susceptible to rapid inundation.” Another aspect that was brought up by tree radar is that apart from roots, there may be a chance of striking unexploded munitions from World War II during the construction process, adding complexity to creating a memorial on this site.
The grassroots campaign of local residents, ‘Save Victoria Tower Gardens’ is also active in bringing public attention to the arguments against placing the memorial in the currently proposed site. This campaign has launched a petition attracting over 10,000 signatures and has published letters to editors of major national newspapers. While the UKHMF, which sponsors the project, has also been active in the press and in submitting consultation responses to the local council website, over 90% of responses to the consultation opposed the proposed development.
The government was criticised for influencing the results of the consultation by engaging a private company, Big Ideas, to communicate the planned design to the public and solicit responses to the consultation. The company focussed on contacting members of Jewish community groups, obtaining a large number of responses, all in favour of the plan in a generic manner with similar text, which the company then submitted to Westminster Council's consultation portal. An answer to a Parliamentary Question from 8 October 2019 showed that around £140,000 was spent by the government on private campaigning companies, in addition to its ongoing funding of the UKHMF. In November 2019, proponents of a memorial to the Transatlantic Slave Trade complained that ample public funding is provided to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, “but not to us”.
Media coverage of initial design
The lead architect of the project, David Adjaye, sparked rebuke from opponents by arguing that ‘disrupting’ the pleasure of being in a park is key to its thinking. David Aaronovich of the Times and the Observer’s architecture critic Rowan Moore have discussed arguments against the park.The ensuing flurry of media attention brought to light some of the critical consultation submissions, such as that from Historic England. Furthermore, co-signed letters from politicians for and against the park have been published in the press. Notably, a group of Jewish members of the House of Lords co-signed a letter stating that the memorial 'memorial ‘evokes neither Holocaust nor Jewish history’'. The latest letter was from 174 politicians who co-signed a statement in support of building the scheme. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has also voiced his concerns about the growing opposition.
Redesign and response
Following the consultation exercise by Westminster Council, it was announced on 29 April 2019 that a revised design would be submitted in response to the level of criticism of the location and design by the general public, residents of Westminster Council, the media and authoritative bodies such as Royal Parks and Historic England. Barbara Weiss of the SVTG campaign blamed the cost, delay and disruption of a redesign on an initial lack of consultation.
The new design was re-imagined with the criticisms in mind. However, the plans increased the loss of green space due to a slight increase in the width of the memorial courtyard to accommodate planting adjacent to the fence, as stated in the environmental statement addendum. It was submitted to the council on 29 April 2019.
The resubmitted design was covered in specialist architecture and building press. Pro and anti sides were cited. Royal Parks said: "From the evidence available it is not clear that the revised designs will significantly reduce the impact that the proposed structure will have on this much-loved public amenity space, in an area of central London with few public parks, which is significant." The designs were submitted under the existing planning application. The consultation continued thereafter. Published documents also indicate that the redesign did not satisfy concerns of the Environmental Agency that adequate preparations were made to prevent a flood risk during building and thereafter.
A letter exchange between Westminster City Council and the UKHMF in August 2019 showed that the memorial 'was heading towards an unfavourable recommendation’ by planners. The exchange was widely covered by UK media. The UKHMF claimed that ‘officers presented as giving excessive weight to the number of objections lodged on the planning portal’. The council refuted their ‘irresponsible and frankly offensive assertions’ about the operation of the council’s planning service.
Enhancement of related sites
The Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018 and 2019 provided significant funding to open a Holocaust Education and Learning Centre in Huddersfield and to refresh and expand the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire. In August 2019, the Imperial War Museum announced plans to spend over £30m on a new set of galleries over two floors at its London site covering the Holocaust and its importance in World War II. The galleries are set to open in 2021 and will replace the existing permanent Holocaust exhibition.
"Calling in" the planning decision
Following a request by Lord Pickles and Ed Balls, the co-chairs of the UKHMF, to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Esther McVay, the Minister for State for Housing, "called in" the application on 6th November 2019. A spokesman said, "A public inquiry will be held and overseen by an independent planning inspector. The Minister will make the final decision on the application taking into account the inspector’s recommendation." A spokesman for Westminster Council said, “We’ve been clear to date that we would consider the scheme on its merits and in line with our planning policy." The local resident campaign against the construction of the memorial argued that Lord Pickles misled the public in saying that Westminster Council agreed with Government's decision to 'call in' the memorial based on there being no written consent from the council.
It had been expected to discuss the application two months ago amid intense lobbying for and against it but no date had been scheduled. In July 2019, Jenrick said "I want tackling antisemitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as secretary of state", adding about his visit to Auschwitz concentration camp, "It had a huge impact on me and in particular because my wife is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from modern day Poland and the Ukraine."
- Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial, unveiled in 1983
- The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide (London)
- The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre, Huddersfield
- Imperial War Museum
- Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre (National Holocaust Centre and Museum)
- List of Holocaust memorials and museums
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