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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

September 2006 Issue

For the Missing and Other Victims
Uruguay memorializes two crimes against humanity.

By Jimena Martignoni

For the Missing and Other Victims Roberto Schettini

If recalling terrible past events is not easy, then neither is it at all easy to create a memorial that calls up the collective memory of such events. The creation process has to shape a place that is sensitive to the needs of the bereaved and others affected by those events and respectful of the landscape in which it is set. In Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, two memorials recall historic events that have scarred one of the local communities and the entire nation.

At 68,040 square miles (slightly smaller than the state of Washington), Uruguay is the third-smallest country in South America, with more than half of its population living in Montevideo. The most prominent feature of this 204-square-mile city is the presence of the Río de la Plata, the widest river in the world, extending alongside it. The rambla, a pink granite promenade built along the waterfront in the 1940s, gives people a place to walk, jog, fish, or relax; the city stands across a main road that runs adjacent to the rambla. Both memorials have an important relationship with this river.

The Holocaust Memorial

The Jewish community in Uruguay is currently no larger than 1 percent of its total population but is nevertheless a significant social segment, especially in Montevideo.

The idea for a memorial to the Holocaust in Montevideo was born in a local Jewish commission that, after getting the approval of Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle in 1993, raised the funds for the construction and called for a national competition. The site was ceded by the city government through a public resolution.

The winning project was created by the team of architects Fernando Fabiano, Gaston Boero, and Sylvia Perossio and landscape designer Carlos Pellegrino. Their design was chosen mainly for its natural integration into the riverfront landscape. Margarita Montañez, an architect who’s in charge of the preservation of Montevideo’s historic gardens and is one of the founders (in 2005) of the Uruguayan Association of Landscape Architects, says that the best aspect of this memorial is the subtle integration with the preexisting elements of the landscape. “It subordinates to the water horizon line and integrates into the space of the rambla [promenade], while generating a new walking itinerary for people,” she explains.

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