Atlantic City Holocaust Memorial

Architecture Design Project

The Challenge

Every year, the senior architecture majors at Yale compete in a high profile international design competition for their senior project. We participated in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial design competition. We traveled to Atlantic City to perform site analysis for the competition and spent the next three months working on a design entry to submit by the deadline. While we were in Atlantic City, we met with leaders of the Jewish community in Atlantic City. They explained to us that the boardwalk has over 35 million visitors a year and over 10 million of those visitors would pass by the proposed site of the Holocaust memorial, which is located directly on the boardwalk. While many of these visitors are visiting Atlantic City just to have some fun in the casinos and at the beach, the memorial on the boardwalk has unprecedented opportunity to surprise millions of visitors. Many of the world’s Holocaust memorials are tourist attractions located in city centers. This particular boardwalk will not necessarily be a tourist attraction, but a tourist encounter. The competition organizers believe that the memorial will be much more effective as an encounter that takes one by surprise rather than as an attraction that draws only certain crowds to it.

The Solution

My memorial design challenges visitors to understand themselves in relation to the victims of genocide. Visitors descend underneath the boardwalk where they enter a dim, sequestered chamber full of 150 columns – some mirrored. This chamber has the emotional associations of hiding under the floorboards or entering a deserted mass burial plot. As they proceed through the field of columns, visitors are confronted by a poetic list of Holocaust victims written by Pastor Martin Niemöller as well as their own shattered reflection. The ethereal quality of these reflections suggests that they are also shattered victims of the Holocaust, which is emphasized by the last words located at the exit of the chamber. ‘It could be anyone. Let it never happen again.’ The proposal reflects a message of common humanity by engaging viewers in a conversation between their own reflections and the ghosts of victims of the Holocaust. After making their journey, visitors emerge back into the light with an unobstructed view of the ocean.

Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial
A view of the memorial from the boardwalk
Atlantic City Holocaust Memorial Plan and Axon

The Words of Pastor Martin Niemöller

 

First they came for the communists,
and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
but I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the homosexuals,
and I did not speak out because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the alcoholics,
the poor,
the pacifists…

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

It could be ANYONE.
Let it never happen again.

Atlantic City Holocaust Memorial
Visitors descend underneath the boardwalk where they enter a dim, sequestered chamber full of 150 columns – some mirrored. This chamber has the emotional associations of hiding under the floorboards or entering a deserted mass burial plot.
Atlantic City Holocaust Memorial Plan and Axon
As they proceed through the field of columns, visitors are confronted by a poetic list of Holocaust victims written by Pastor Martin Niemöller as well as their own shattered reflection.
Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Model
Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Model
Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Model
Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Model
Atlantic City Boardwalk Holocaust Memorial Model