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Norway’s Moving Terrorism Memorial Will Be A Gash In The Landscape

The winning design proposal will create a physical wound that can never heal.

Norway recently approved a design proposal from Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg, who usually works in video installations, to memorialize the 2011 attacks perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik. It’s bold and poignant and very beautiful in its simplicity: an 11-foot chasm that will be carved into the land near the massacre. It’s due to be unveiled on the fourth anniversary of the attacks on July 22, 2015.

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In 2011, Breivik carried out two consecutive acts of violence, first killing eight with a bomb and then moving to the island of Utøya, where he killed 69. It was the most violent day in Norwegian history since World War II and sent shockwaves through the country; by one estimate, one in four Norwegians knew someone personally affected by the massacre.


Dahlberg’s concept was chosen for the memorial after the country held an open competition for designs (no word on whether he’s being paid for the design, though the country clearly has a significant budget for public architecture). His calls for an 11-foot-wide gap to be gouged in a narrow peninsula near Utøya, permanently separating the end of the peninsula from the mainland. Says Norway’s public art office:

Here he proposes a wound or a cut within the landscape itself to recreate the physical experience of something being taken away, and to reflect the abrupt and permanent loss of those who died on Utøya. The cut will be a three-and-a-half-metre wide excavation running from the top of the headland at the Sørbråten site to below the waterline and extending to each side. This gap in the landscape will make it impossible to reach the end of the headland.

The names of those killed will be carved into the cut side of the earth, but viewers won’t be able to physically touch them, unlike most memorials, including the 9/11 memorial here in the U.S. “The names will be close enough to see and read clearly, yet ultimately out of reach. This cut is an acknowledgement of what is forever irreplaceable,” said Dahlberg. The land removed from the side, trees and all, will be transported to Oslo to serve as the base of the city’s memorial, which, according to the public art site, will be a “memorial pathway.”

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About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.

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