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This new monument will be the first to remember the victims of COVID-19

In Uruguay, the World Memorial to the Pandemic will force people to confront their relationship with the deadly potential of nature.

As of early September, more than 900,000 people have died around the world because of COVID-19. Designers are already working on how to remember them: A plan for a massive new monument would honor the victims, along with everyone else who has been affected by other pandemics throughout history.

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Sitting on the coastline of Montevideo, Uruguay, the memorial will lead visitors down a long pedestrian path to a spot where the sounds and sights of urban life fade away. In the middle of a circular steel platform, 40 meters in diameter, there’s an open space where it will be possible to look down at the open ocean below.

[Image: Gómez Platero]
The monument, called the World Memorial to the Pandemic, is not solely about COVID-19 and other pandemics, but about the larger idea of the human relationship with nature. “For us, it is very important that visitors understand their relationship with nature,” says Martín Gómez Platero, director and lead architect of Gómez Platero, the Montevideo-based firm that created the designs for the memorial. “That is why the center of the memorial is not a human being, but a great void where nature emerges so that we never forget that the center of our ecosystem is nature and that we are subordinate to it.” (Of course, in the case of COVID-19, the challenge is not solely nature: In the U.S., arguably, many deaths could have been avoided if the government had acted faster and more competently, and the disease itself likely emerged, like others, because humans are destroying nature.)

[Image: Gómez Platero]
As many as 300 visitors will be able to stand on the platform—while staying six feet apart—and think about those they’ve lost and nature itself. “The circular geometry of the memorial summarizes the concept of unity and community and gives us a scale of measurement of the force of the sea, a place of shelter, and exposure to the wind,” Gómez Platero says. “The form is only interrupted by the crack that gives entry to the place, a break or rupture that reminds us of a singular, global event.”

The concave platform, designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible, will be partly assembled in a workshop offsite. The project is expected to break ground in October.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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