Sponsored by the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission, Van Alen Institute
Juried by the National Endowment for the Arts, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
Hains Point, Washington, D.C.
The proposed memorial is a public record of rising seas, a living observatory for unfolding cultural and natural histories.
Continually becoming, the memorial spatializes this moment of climatic uncertainty and challenge, marking today’s shoreline as a function of past actions and future choices. Nature authors its story on the land for public witness. As memorial, it is a place to collectively reckon with our unmetabolized emotions. Yet, Climate Chronograph pivots on the memorial typology by orienting toward questions of crisis ahead rather than atrocity past. By inviting confrontation with our global fears, denial, shame, guilt, and hopes while the future is yet unwritten, there may yet be opportunity to heal.
Climate Chronograph is slow. It offers us an opportunity to elongate our current, accelerationist thinking to consider generational-paced impacts.
Locals may witness a gradual progression of rising seas, whereas out-of-town pilgrims 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. Climate Chronograph brings legibility to geologic scale changes wrought on us by us.
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. Trees die in place, row by row, becoming bare-branched rampikes delineating shorelines past.
Earth from the lower shaved plane raises the ascending slope, is then planted with a bosc of Washington, D.C.'s iconic cherry tree, left as sacrificial datum to rising seas.
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.