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A Memorial To Victims Of… Everything!

When you try and honor everyone, you simply end up remembering no one.

We’re all familiar with memorials that commemorate the victims of specific tragedies. but what about more generalized horrors? What about a memorial to all victims–victims of car crashes and disease and fires and overdoses and gang warfare and violent dictators in faraway lands and peanut allergies and stray bullets?

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That’s precisely what Munich designer Martin Papcún and architect Adam Jirkal of Prague-based Atelier SAD want to build with the aptly named “Memorial of all victims”: a tribute to victims of anything and everything awful you can imagine. “In any war, totalitarian and violent regime, natural disaster or civil accident, there are victims–people who are forced into situations they don’t want and don’t want to participate in,” the designers say. “Memorial of all victims is dedicated to the people who were not heroes but they left somewhere their own indelible imprint.”

Their idea–developed for a public art competition in Germany–is to inter the shell of a sand-blasted concrete house upside down and at a slight angle in the ground of St. Jakob’s Square in Munich. They chose a house, they say, because of its universal symbolism: “Our memories, our energy, and our lives are imprinted there.” Turning it over and planting it in the earth introduces a morbid twist, leaving no question that this is a tribute to dead people. From afar, it looks like a coffin rising out of the square.

The burial metaphor has been used to profound effect in everything from Maya Lin’s stunning Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. to the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. The problem in this case, and the reason it gets our almost genius designation, is that the metaphor doesn’t refer to anything in particular. What makes a memorial great is both the specificity of its purpose (commemorating the Vietnam War) and the universality of its message (revealing the atrocities of war). To paraphrase the old Diane Arbus saw, the more specific your art, the more widely it will resonate. This does the opposite. In attempting to memorialize all victims, Papcún and Jirkal inadvertently honor none of them.

[Images courtesy of Martin Papcún; h/t to Dezeen]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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