Winner | Memorials for the Future Sponsored by the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission, Van Alen Institute
Hains Point, Washington, D.C.
The proposed memorial is a public record of rising seas, a living observatory for an unfolding process toward an unknown future.
Continually becoming, the memorial commemorates present and future conditions. Climatic changes are poignant reminders of the generational impacts of our daily actions. Spatializing this moment of uncertainty and challenge, the memorial marks today’s shoreline as a function of past actions and future choices. Both extending and contracting our human experience of the temporal, nature authors its long unfolding on the land, upon which the past, present, and future are embedded together.
Climate Chronograph is slow, offering us an opportunity to shift our current, accelerationist thinking into a longer multi-generational time frame. Locals may witness a gradual progression of rising seas, whereas out-of-town visitors may never experience the same memorial twice. Imagine a young American’s staple eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.: one row of inundated trees. During a college protest: three flooded rows. When she returns later in life with her children: seven rows of rampikes. Transformation of the memorial mirrors transformation in the world, and bears witness to the changes wrought on a landscape over time. When our children and our children’s children visit, it becomes a legible demonstration of generational-paced change.
“Climate Chronograph is a new form of memorialization that commemorates the aftermath of the present.” Edward T . Linenthal, Professor of History, Indiana University
An embrace of indeterminacy, nature will write our story, our choices, into the landscape as we face this most vulnerable moment of uncertainty.
As waters rise across a tilted plane of land extending to the waterline, tides encroach on the land and trees die in place, row by row, becoming bare-branched rampikes delineating shorelines past.
A minimal composition of earthwork and the culturally iconic tree of Washington, D.C.. cut and fill is balanced as earth from the lower shaved plane is used to fill the ascending slope.
Humble construction techniques and materials emboldens possibility of the memorial on a landscape whose future stewardship is in question. Intended to mature through time’s decay, the memorial requires negligible upkeep beyond tree and lawn maintenance.
Inviting a multiplicity of users and uses, the memorial’s open form seeks to embrace, not displace, the local public while adding an additional cultural overlay of memorialization.
The advancing water’s edge becomes a fecund place for exploration, observation, and learning. The memorial’s contained perimeter creates a sheltered cove for discovery and research of an emergent wetland ecosystem.
As dry land yields to rising seas, a thriving wetland emerges. Marine Eel Grass (Zostera marina) pioneer habitat for species such as Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata), and the Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus).
An embrace of indeterminacy, Climate Chronograph matures as it decays and evolves with natural succession. By ceding control of the tip of an island that serves as a keystone of flood control and is maintained by a steward expressly committed to non-intervention, the memorial sacrifices itself to what will be. Its entropy makes legible in the scale of inches and feet the global effects of rising seas.