Adjaye/Arad Selected for UK Holocaust Memorial

John Hill
24. October 2017
Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects (All images courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants Limited)

The team led by the firms of David Adjaye and Ron Arad has won the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial International Design Competition.

The UK Holocaust Memorial was first announced on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2016. The project's two-stage competition launched in September 2016 and in January 2017 a list of ten shortlisted teams was announced. According to Malcolm Reading Consultants, which managed the competition, the "jury met in September 2017 to interview the shortlist, and unanimously selected the team led by Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects as the winner of the competition."

Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

Planned for the Victoria Tower Gardens alongside the Houses of Parliament and adjacent to the River Thames, the UK Holocaust Memorial is made up of two parts: an above-grade memorial with landscape, and a below-grade Learning Centre, "which will advance Holocaust education across the United Kingdom and help visitors develop a deeper understanding of how societal breakdown can, in the worst cases, lead to genocide." Although present in the shortlisted and winning designs, the Learning Centre "will be taken forward subject to technical, financial, planning or other constraints."

Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

The description of the winning team of Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects with Gustafson Porter + Bowman, Plan A and DHA Designs:

We have approached the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre as an opportunity to unearth the complexity of the Holocaust story, which we see as a series of layers that have become hidden by time. Our proposal aims to reveal these layers not through a static symbol commemorating the past, but through an organic living monument that evolves over time, capable of both affecting and being affected by its users.

Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects


Our design integrates Learning Centre, Memorial and landscape into a multifaceted holistic sensorial and emotive journey. Through a careful sequencing of highly immersive spaces that intentionally juxtapose moments of solitary engagement with moments of collective gathering, our design envelops the visitor in the physical, intellectual and emotional experience of the Holocaust trauma. In so doing, we have resisted traditional notions of dictation in favour of encouraging visitors to draw personal meaning and purpose out of tragedy.

Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

According to Malcolm Reading Consultants, the jury praised "the winning team’s proposal to create 'a living place, not just a monument to something of the past' and the desire to create an immersive journey for the visitor who would enter a Memorial embedded in the land." Additionally, the jury commended the design's ability to resolve an essential challenge of the brief: "being visually arresting ('highly visible from near and far') yet showing sensitivity to its location and context."

Image: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

Next steps include further development through discussion with Holocaust experts, survivors and other victim groups, and local residents, Westminster City Council, Historic England, Royal Parks and other statutory consultees. The UK Government has committed £50 million toward the creation of the Memorial and running the Learning Centre, though the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation will be working closely with other organizations and experts on the contents and approach of the Learning Centre.

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