Precinct 333

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why A National AIDS Memorial?

I probably sound insensitive by asking the above question. It isn't meant to discount the tragedy and horror brought about by the disease, nor is it a slam at those who have been its victims or who have triumphed over it. But I have to ask why we have a memorial to a disease?

A design by two New York architects was declared the winner Wednesday in a competition to create a centerpiece for a 7-acre garden in Golden Gate Park, the only federally recognized AIDS memorial in the country.

"Living Memorial," by Janette Kim and Chloe Town, features a stand of black carbon fiber trees, a charred wood deck and a burned, bark-like walkway that in time will sprout greenery - elements borrowed from a fire-scarred forest to evoke a sense of loss and renewal.

"While the design is at first frightening, it is also rich with the eventual triumph of life," said Ken Ruebush, who co-chaired the international contest that drew 201 submissions from 24 countries.

Conceived in 1989 by a group of residents, the National AIDS Memorial Grove originally was designed as a living memorial that relied more on its natural setting than man-made features to send a message.

Its board of directors started talking about installing a more imposing structure once Congress gave the grove national memorial status in 1996, a designation shared by American icons ranging from the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor to Mt. Rushmore, according to Ruebush.

Why not a National Polio Park next? Or a Malaria Monument? Why AIDS? Why ANY disease?


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