Finalists' Designs for Pulse Nightclub Memorial Revealed

John Hill
5. October 2019
Studio Libeskind, Pulse Museum (Image: Studio Libeskind/onePULSE Foundation)

The competition is being led by Dovetail Design Strategists with onePULSE Foundation, the nonprofit that was established "to create a sanctuary of hope" following the 2016 Pulse Nightclub tragedy, in which 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The event is one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBTQ people in the country.

According to a statement from the onePULSE Foundation, since the May announcement the six finalists have met with community members, including family and survivor representatives, learned about the collection of artifacts, studied data from onePULSE’s two years of community outreach, and visited places central to Pulse’s story including the Interim Memorial and Orlando Health trauma center.

The six concept designs developed from that process are below, with text by the architects. The public is invited to make comments on the individual designs on the onePULSE Foundation's website, where the designs can be seen in their entirety, including videos. The deadline for comments is October 10, 2019. A winner — a starting point for discussion and a basis for design but not the final, finished memorial and museum, per the announcement — will be selected by the jury on October 30.

Coldefy & Associés with RDAI

Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: Coldefy & Associés with RDAI/onePULSE Foundation)

The Pulse is the source, the place of events that echoed throughout the world, the point of departure of a project transforming hearts, minds and inspiring the Orlando SoDo district development.

Pulse becomes the center of gravity; it radiates and transmits.

Water is the connecting element, from the existing fountain, it becomes a shallow reflecting pool encircling the club. In memory of the Angels, a palette of 49 colors lines the basin and radiates towards the public spaces.

An opulent garden planted with 49 trees, the memorial site provides a protective and colorful canopy. At the center of the garden, the nightclub is preserved; a generous adjacent space is dedicated to gathering and celebration. In this haven of peace and tranquility, we discover the transformed nightclub, opening to the light and air, inviting us to traverse an intimate path; opening our consciousness.

Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, National Pulse Memorial (Image: Coldefy & Associés with RDAI/onePULSE Foundation)

The renewed West Kaley street provides a shaded connection to the Museum, which rises like a budding flower, reaching towards the sky and signaling the entrance to the Pulse district. Vertical gardens and public plazas create new community places, and a rooftop promenade offers views to the Memorial and over the entire district.

Interactive sculptures commemorating all those affected by the tragedy punctuate the shaded esplanade of the Survivors walk on Orange Avenue, from the memorial towards downtown.

Future promenades, bike paths, and a Pulse shuttle connect to the train station and create walkable loops that serve as a framework for the healthy future growth of the neighborhood.

Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Pulse Museum (Image: Coldefy & Associés with RDAI/onePULSE Foundation)

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects/onePULSE Foundation)

As LGBTQ+ and LatinX family, June 12, 2016 forever changed our lives. On that celebratory night, the likes of which we have participated in countless times, all went black. We feel a deep connection to those taken and impacted, so for them we must never forget that Pulse nightclub was and should always remain brilliant, glittery, and gay.

We propose a memorial with a garden and sanctuary that is both solemn and celebratory. The sanctuary sits within a contemplative sound garden of cypress trees, natural ponds and 268 reflective columns, each of which honors the life of someone who was affected but survived the shooting. A sound installation integrated into the columns will create a symphony of music when visitors approach them. A delicately draped, beaded shroud protects the walls of the original club. Ascending above the original structure, one enters the sanctuary, which is suspended on 49 rainbow-colored ceramic tile columns commemorating the 49 lives taken. They dance as they did that night, and ascend towards the sky, unbroken and strong, while physically supporting the roof and the floor. Circular glass openings surrounding these columns open views down to see the original club and dance floor below while tinted glass skylights fill the space with shimmering colored light from above. A perimeter scrim covered with mementos left by mourners displays the names of the 49 victims.

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects, National Pulse Memorial (Image: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects/onePULSE Foundation)

A future museum that promotes acceptance and tolerance is proposed in order to spread knowledge in the hope that one day this new center will prevent hateful events such as those that happened at Pulse Nightclub from ever happening again.

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects, Pulse Museum (Image: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects/onePULSE Foundation)

heneghan peng architects

heneghan peng architects, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: heneghan peng architects/onePULSE Foundation)

The nightclub remains.

Inside is silence.  

Together, we engage with this silence to realize our strength. 
It is through collectively facing this silence that the energy of PULSE emerges. 

The memorial is cast around the perimeter of this silence, delicately poised on the threshold that links what is outside to what happened within. The memorial’s form shelters visitors in an intimate embrace, revealing only a single wall of the nightclub. 

Each face of the memorial is divided into seven sections, the number of colors in a rainbow. These 7 x 7 intersections intertwine as a shared space, honoring and protecting the 49 angels. On the west, the angels’ names are inscribed in colorful vertical bands, looking towards a tranquil garden. Facing east, the date of the shooting declares: We will never forget. The north and south recall a space of community and celebration. 

heneghan peng architects, National Pulse Memorial (Image: heneghan peng architects/onePULSE Foundation)

Rising alongside the I-4, the museum resonates with the energy of the nightclub. Its curves embrace public spaces along West Kaley, tilting upwards to provide shade. At its heart is a matrix of flexible chambers that display PULSE artifacts and mementos. Within these folds of history and memory is a mixture of sound emerging from recording studios, conversations and community spaces.

These sounds spread further through the PULSE Music Label, which releases music that amplifies the strength of the PULSE and LGBTQ+ communities. From one person’s headphones to a nightclub halfway around the world, this is a people’s memorial that is enacted everywhere the music is heard.

heneghan peng architects, Pulse Museum (Image: heneghan peng architects/onePULSE Foundation)

MASS Design Group

MASS Design Group, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: MASS Design Group/onePULSE Foundation)

No thing, no tribute, no space will replace these lives, their loss, their loves, their selves. And yet, like a chrysalis, we transform and become something else through tragedy. The Pulse community teaches the public what it is to Become. To become is not simply to transform from one to another, but to hold a state of multiple identities together in tension.

The Pulse Memorial

This ground, it is sacred ground. Violence and injury and lives lost have permeated here. They deserve and we need to give their lives space and their sacrifice meaning. And yet, also while pain was here, joy was there too; and beyond joy, there was transcendence, liberty, freedom, sweat, ritual, and hope to be whoever we want to be.

MASS Design Group, National Pulse Memorial (Image: MASS Design Group/onePULSE Foundation)
The Museum for Equality

Our museum proposal is positioned to put the Pulse massacre in a global context of the fight for equality, and we are proposing naming the Museum, the Museum for Equality. Our Museum proposal would begin broadly, including the history of oppression and the fight for equality embedded in Central Florida. We bring together the global response and acts of solidarity in the wake of the tragedy, which can serve as a talisman of possibility, and the activism that can be inspired and nurtured here in the pursuit of equality.

MASS Design Group, Pulse Museum (Image: MASS Design Group/onePULSE Foundation)


MVRDV, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: MVRDV/onePULSE Foundation)
Landscape of Love

How we memorialize the Pulse Nightclub shooting influences the nature of the community’s physical and spiritual renewal. We implement a holistic approach that addresses physical (ecological), psychological (emotional), and actualization (social) needs. Cohesion in the Pulse District’s public realm, from the museum, along the West Kaley Street walk, to the National Pulse Memorial monument, through to the city center, and along the Orlando Health Survivors Walk, draws these distinct programs, and SoDo/Parramore communities, into connection.

Sowing the Seeds

Renewal begins in the public realm.  A comprehensive urban “seeding” strategy connects all key sites and includes visually vibrant planting, lighting, parasol shading with bench seating, in addition to integrated smart and sustainable water and energy systems. With this urban strategy, we re-graft this desolate corridor onto the fabric of the greater city.

MVRDV, National Pulse Memorial (Image: MVRDV/onePULSE Foundation)
National Pulse Memorial

In contrast, the National Pulse Memorial is calm and stoic. Its black volume communicates a midnight quality, even in brilliant Florida sunshine, while gold accentuates the façade fractures. Seemingly levitating atop a carved landscape of 49 trees chosen by victims’ families, atmospheric lighting enhances its spatial experience.

Pulse Museum

Love is patient, love is kind… love is proud. The Pulse Museum will be an exciting new icon in the Orlando landscape, so form functions both conceptually and practically. Facilitating collective remembering, and learning, it will draw visitors from all over to its world-class educational program. By creating opportunities to consolidate new understanding through memorial and reinvention, and enhancing inclusivity, we will not let hate win.

MVRDV, Pulse Museum (Image: MVRDV/onePULSE Foundation)

Studio Libeskind

Studio Libeskind, National Pulse Memorial & Museum (Image: Studio Libeskind/onePULSE Foundation)
Perpetual Light

We don’t let hate win by shedding  
Perpetual Light into the darkness. 

The title Perpetual Light is a response to the onePULSE mission.  The Perpetual Light never extinguishes—it is the light of the 49 Angels, the survivors, first responders, and community. We created three integrated, yet individually distinctive elements within the Greater Pulse District.  We imbued each site with meaning and symbolism that radiates from onePULSE.

Studio Libeskind, National Pulse Memorial (Image: Studio Libeskind/onePULSE Foundation)

The Memorial is a place that first and foremost celebrates the lives of those who were taken, and communicates the values of Pulse—diversity, unity and acceptance. The heart-shaped design is contoured by 366 rainbow gates, each for a day of the 2016 calendar year. The Memorial is an active and deeply intimate experience for families, survivors and first-responders.  We preserve the existing nightclub site as the Broken Heart and it is the scared space of the project—where we illuminate the words of love and loss. The Memorial spills out and connects to the Survivors Walk following the same path of the heroic acts of that night. 

The Museum proclaims our humanity by embodying the human form as an iconic landmark for the Pulse district.  It is a figure of hope that connects the terrestrial to the celestial as the tower ascends upward. It culminates in a pulsating rainbow beacon of 49 colored columns of light, activated by human touch. The observation deck is a place to take in the entirety of the district and feel the eternal pulse of humanity.

Studio Libeskind, Pulse Museum (Image: Studio Libeskind/onePULSE Foundation)

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