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Dellville Wood SA Soldier’s Memorial Concept | France | 2014

zDELVILLE WOOD SOLDIER’S MEMORIAL conceived as part of South Africa’s 20 Year’s of Democracy celebrations, was a competition to honour the memory of black South African soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War I, but unlike their white counter parts where not given the dignity of a named burial.

The memorial as it stands, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and consists of 4 main elements: a central memorial flanked by a graveyard and museum mimicking in shape, the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town and is connected by

 

entrance and central avenue. A strong north-south axis.

The Wood itself, the site of a bloody siege between German forces and a South African infantry brigade in 1916 was given to the South African government by France for the purposes of a memorial at the end of the war.

The conceptual process looked to unpack unwritten histories. Dealing with such dense subject matter as death/sacrifice and remembrance/commemoration, we looked for a departure. It came in the form of juxtaposed trajectories identifying itself as a disruption of the

status quo. Its purpose to correct the injustice of the past.

We locate the intervention at the apex of the memorial between the memorial itself and museum for this very reason.

At midpoint, a moment is marked with a diagonal trajectory. In form it becomes two vertical columns symbolizing both Life and Death. Between the two, a memorial stone is situated suggesting a different engagement. The vertical beams may suggest a pinnacle, yet the everlasting notion is of the jagged cascading pillars that rise from the ground only to return to it: symbolizing

The Cycle Of Life. It is through these elements we introduce remembrance, as each pillar holds the names of relevant soldiers. At ground level seating is introduced in a pattern-like manner for participants to reflect on the moment while taking in the beauty of the scene: another juxtaposition. They fade almost haphazardly into the thick of the wood, echoing the plight of the soldiers as they disappeared never to return. A haunting reminder of the horrors of war.