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.
The memorial is a frame for the indeterminant. 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.
Intended to mature through time’s decay, construction and maintenance of the memorial is an affordable option for East Potomac Park's already flooding tip.
Inviting a multiplicity of users and uses, the memorial’s open form embraces existing local fishers, picnickers, joggers and cyclists while adding an additional cultural overlay of memorialization to Hains Point.
The advancing water’s edge becomes a fecund place for exploration. An emergent Chesapeake Bay wetland ecosystem of Marine Eel Grass (Zostera marina), Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata), and the Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus) is ripe for National Park research and educational programs.
Public witness of Hains Point's transformation as dry land yielding to rising waters.
Climate Chronograph matures as it decays and evolves with natural succession. By ceding control of the tip of an island serving as the keystone of Washington, D.C.'s flood control under NPS's non-intervention stewardship, the memorial's entropy makes legible in the scale of inches and feet the global effects of rising seas.