Bali Memorial, Australia
Project architects: Donaldson + Warn.
By Mario Pisani
Carlton is a suburb of Melbourne, Australia with a population of about 12,000 inhabitants and situated 2 kilometres away from the town’s business district. Its name is probably derived from that of the Carlton House in London, England, a building which dates from the first half of the eighteenth century. It is a well-maintained suburb, with a district known as “Little Italy” and Victorian-era architecture whilst the public urban spaces recall European architectural styles. The Bali Memorial located in Lincoln Square, commemorates the memory of the innocent victims of the terrorist attack in the Indonesian island of Bali. Of the 202 persons who died in the attack, 88 were Australian with 22 of these were from the state of Victoria.
The date of 12 October 2002 represented another milestone in a series of terrorist attacks, which have now become a worldwide phenomenon. A powerful bomb placed along a busy street exploded in Kuta, one of the most popular tourist resort towns on the island of Bali. At the time of the explosion the various entertainment outlets were packed with people and the attack caused the death of several victims predominantly tourists besides injuring over 300 others. In the aftermath of this tragic event the Australian government announced a design competition for a memorial that would commemorate the memory of the victims and those who survived the attack. The competition was won by the architectural studio of Donaldson + Warn. The architectural firm has a distinguished track record having executed several important projects such as the Christ Church grammar school in Perth, an environment-friendly building, the Nexus Drama theatre, the University Club at the University of Western Australia, and the Victoria Quay Ferry Terminal.
Once they secured the commission for the memorial, the firm embarked on intensive and wide-ranging consultations with the families of the victims and also with various institutions, with the aim of securing a consensus and a shared vision by all parties involved in the process. Thus, a collaborative process was set in motion between the architectural firm and a group of artists namely David Jones, Kevin Draper and Sally Morgan. The memorial rather than focusing exclusively on grand rhetorical statements or the destructive aspects of terrorism is intended to create a series of intimate spaces that are conducive to contemplation and sentiments of tranquility and hope. In this way the local community can relive the personal and intimate bond with the victims, sentiments that transcend the distractions of everyday matters.
The memorial is situated in King’s Park where visitors can enjoy a panoramic vista that embraces the park and the city all the way to the River Swam. It is organized around three nuclei, characterized by a series of walls that constitute the fulcrum of the memorial together with a garden and an area reserved for picnics, areas that were structured along two axes: that along the Swan River and the other being the East axis. These two visual axes are generators of both the individual parts and the entire composition. This is realized in accordance with an almost casual configuration which one discovers along the pathways that lead the visitors to experience the different vistas and appreciate the serene atmosphere and scenic qualities of the surrounding environment.
The Swan River axis connects the rear parts of the park to the river and the landscape that extends beyond it. On the other hand the East axis is oriented in such a manner that on the 12th of October every year the sunrays are perfectly aligned to the memorial and in the process, direct light onto the individual inscriptions of the bronze plaque that is set within the mass of granite. The journey traced by the East axis commences in the area that is reserved for commemoration and ends in the zone reserved for the picnic area. The first part is composed of a mass of granite with a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of the Australian victims, the two walls that separate the East axis, built of sandstone quarried from the Kimberley region, are inscribed with poetic phrases, being the work of Sally Morgan and intended to evoke sentiments of peace, solidarity and tranquility; a curved wall in steel is engraved with the forms of local botanical plants to the design of the sculptor David Jones.
Some of the phrases selected by the artist Sally Morgan pronounce: “That you may find serenity in this sacred space, “We pay tribute to the resilience of those who survived the attack, “We cherish the spirit and altruism of all those who came to the rescue.” They are interpreted in stainless steel and set onto granite and wood of Jarrah, whilst at the rear end of the curved wall in steel visitors encounter the grove of Xanthorrhoee that is symbolically dedicated to the victims. The picnic zone demonstrates an abstract language, linear but not rigid, and making reference to the house that evokes tranquility and serenity, in harmony with the spirit of the entire project. It is worth noting that in every space of the memorial local materials and indigenous plants were used, thus respecting and celebrating the specific identity of the place.