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Smriti Van Earthquake Memorial

Rebirth and Hope

Vastu Shilpa Consultants

On 26 January 2001, an earthquake devastated the Indian State of Gujarat, claiming the lives of 13,805 and causing widespread destruction in the space of just a few seconds. Earthquakes and other natural calamities like droughts and cyclones are not infrequent in this region, so a memorial to the victims of this catastrophe takes on an even wider significance. However varied in shape or size, a memorial is often a piece of monumental architecture, its tangible materiality “crystalizing” remembrance and compassion. A commemoration of those who perished that gives pause to the living, it is also a vehicle of reconciliation and recovery for the grieving. Although pursuing the same broad aim of “rebirth and hope”, key to any return to living after disaster, the Smriti Van Earthquake Memorial eschews the “monumental architecture” approach. The project’s strategic complexity is immediately apparent. The fact that it will one day include a tree for every victim - as declared by the President of the State of Gujarat - is clear indication of its intent not only to honor the victims but also to assert the continuity of life. The whole site is an integral part of the memorial, not just the section directly affected by the earthquake, as testified by the fallen rocks and the remains of buildings. More than that, the project sets in motion a long-term process of gradually mending the rift between nature and man. A long winding itinerary over the whole designated area takes on the character of a pilgrim’s route over which people travel to commemorate and remember. Its very nature as a planted park makes it an instrument of progressive transformation. Nature - in the form of the trees planted in memory of the victims - is the driving force for change. Requiring care to ensure their survival, the trees retain their commemorative value while becoming symbols of rebirth to be defended. The natural landscape must be cared for to...

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