In September 2016, the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation along with the local government in London launched an international two-stage design competition to build a national memorial to honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Almost 100 entries were submitted, and now ten-world class teams have been selected for the second stage of the competition. Toronto's Diamond Schmitt Architects leads one of the shortlisted teams.

Aerial view of scheme in Victoria Tower Gardens, image by Diamond Schmitt ArchitAerial view of scheme in Victoria Tower Gardens, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

The new Holocaust National Memorial and Learning Centre will be located at Victoria Tower Gardens along the banks of the Thames, and steps away from the UK Parliament buildings, in the heart of London. The memorial and learning centre is meant to educate future generations on the Holocaust and serve as a symbol fostering tolerance, order, and decency in the future. 

Diamond Schmitt's Design of the new holocaust memorial at Victoria Tower GardensDiamond Schmitt's design viewed from the side, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

Diamond Schmitt, who have designed hundreds of projects in Canada and across the world, have since the opening of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto become particularly well known for their performing arts venues, with recent major such commissions and completed works in New York; Lubbock, Texas; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Montreal, Quebec. The company is the only Canadian architectural firm selected for the shortlist, the majority of the other firms selected being British and American.

Diamond Schmitt's design of the new holocaust memorial with Victoria Tower in thApproaching the memorial, with Victoria Tower in the background, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

The full list of teams competing for the commission are:

  • Adjaye Associates (UK) with Ron Arad Architects; 
  • Allied Works (US) with artist Robert Montgomery; 
  • Caruso St John (UK) with artist Rachel Whiteread; 
  • Diamond Schmitt Architects (CA) with Martha Schwartz Partners (UK) and Ralph Appelbaum Associates (US);
  • Foster + Partners (UK) with artist Michal Rovner; 
  • heneghan peng architects (IE) with multidisciplinary designers Bruce Mau Design; 
  • John McAslan + Partners (UK) with emerging US practice MASS Design Group; 
  • Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects (FI) with UK based David Morley Architects; 
  • Studio Libeskind (US) with emerging UK practice Haptic Architects; 
  • Zaha Hadid Architects (UK) with artist Anish Kapoor

You can find all of the submissions near the bottom of the page linked here.

View from the central void of the memorial, image by Diamond Schmitt ArchitectsView from the central void of the memorial, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

Diamond Schmitt's design of the memorial places most of it underground beneath Victoria Tower Gardens, blending in with the garden and surrounding area, and built to be sustainable with low energy use. The memorial is designed as a void in the landscape, representing the immeasurable loss caused by the holocaust, enclosed within a dark metal cone with its surrounding walls covered with six million cast-iron nuggets representing the individuals who perished.

View of the interior of the memorial complex, image by Diamond Schmitt ArchitectView of the interior of the memorial complex, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

Diamond Schmitt's goal is to create a memorial that is the most suitable to serve the purposes of remembrance and caution against the repeat of intolerance. The design of the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial, according to Diamond Schmitt, "reveals the power of the opposing forces that created the descent into a horror of hitherto unimaginable scale, and a humanity of unlimited compassion and selfless commitment."

United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial entry, Diamond Schmitt ArchitectsLight offers some hope in the surrounding darkness, image by Diamond Schmitt Architects

Currently, all ten models and renderings are on display to the public until August 21 at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Speaking recently at the opening of the exhibition, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, said the memorial would “underline what happens when society breaks down, when law, order, decency and tolerance, and empathy disappear. This is what happened in 1930s Germany, and it has lessons today, lessons about tolerance, lessons about race hatred, lessons for all of us”.

The winning team will be selected in September by a 14-member independent jury chaired by Bazalgette. Other members include Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London; Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, and other leading figures in British culture, architecture, and religion. The jury is interested in the public's view on the designs; you can place your vote here.