Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to do an Expensive Memorial the Right Way

A good memorial should stand the test of time; after all, one of the key points behind a monument is allowing others to remember and learn of the event being commemorated. Does the AIDS memorial do that? Well, let me tell you about my trip to the AIDS memorial. I got lost, wet, scared, and had to ask for directions. Like twice. The memorial itself is akin to a budget Vietnam Veterans memorial, but is money really what counts?
If the AIDS Memorial looked like the Vietnam Veterans, would it be as special? The obvious answer is 'no', because AIDS is a stigmatized disease, and does not get the public awareness it needs... but on the other hand, the Vietnam war is a touchy subject as well. It could have been easy to do a statue of few soldiers shooting off at some unknown foe, or perhaps a lone trooper carrying a wounded comrade. Instead, a black wall, etched with names of those who died. Simple, but powerful. Everyone knows what it is. It is practically a national treasure.

Speaking of statues of soldiers, does anyone know what that one is about on Cordova? Maybe it isn't Cordova. Again, the issue of space and placement; if we cannot find these things easily, they are not going to get noticed or remembered. But an Angel carries a fallen soldier upwards. It is a great work (in my opinion), but it is hard to say what, if anything, it is commenting or remembering.
The Iwo Jima monument has the classic pose of soldiers raising the flag. It immediately tells people what is being commemorated, and therefore works. For a monument to work, it should be two things: easy to find, and easy to identify. If the memorial is in a largely-unvisited area of Stanley Park, an under-developed area of town, or tucked away where people rarely see, it is worthless. Likewise, if we cannot easily tell what it is (for example, Air India's memorial) people may pass by and not take notice.

Although Vancouver is not Washington D.C., there is no reason we cannot take cues from more successful monuments, if we are to continue building them.

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