July 12, 2009

July 7 Memorial in Hyde Park "Exactly Right"

London Unveils Memorial to July 7 Victims

British officials unveiled a memorial of 52 steel pillars in a London park Tuesday - one for each victim of the July 7, 2005, attacks on the city's transit system.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall attended the memorial service along with families of the victims. The stainless steel columns stand 11.5 feet tall in central London's Hyde Park.

Former Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was in office at the time of the attacks by four suicide bombers on three subway trains and a bus, praised the design of the memorial.

"I think it's just exactly right. Often, it's very difficult to do something like this and get it right," he said.

The daughter of a woman who died in the bomb attacks on London's transit system says a memorial to the victims is "truly incredible."

 Hyde Park July 7Th Memorial

The July 7 memorial says what words cannot

We have become exceptionally good at revering our heroes and this latest effort is as utterly right as the Cenotaph, says Simon Heffer.

The dignity and appropriateness of the memorial in Hyde Park to the 52 people murdered in the London Tube and bus bombings four years ago speak for themselves. The concept of 52 tall, strong bars of steel towering above those who visit the memorial to pay their respects makes a statement about the indestructibility of the human spirit; it also proclaims a resilience against those who would, in one way or another, remove our freedoms.
Yet what the memorial also reflects is a tactful evolution of taste, and an appropriateness not merely to the suffering of the dead and bereaved, but to the spirit of the age. It can often be dangerous, in contemporary art, to strive not to be literal; it risks lack of comprehension on the part of the viewer and, in this case, displaying a lack of respect.

As a people, we are exceptionally good at memorials. Even before the wars and destructions of the last 100 years, we had perfected the art of the epitaph, with its combination of honesty and wit: they are to be found in almost every parish church in England. They accept death as a frequent visitor to the parish; but they accept, too, that life goes on.
It is here that one first notices the contrast between the British way of dealing with such a holocaust and that of other people. Understatement is almost always the key

Centopath London Wwi By Luytens

Lutyens's cenotaph in Whitehall is the ultimate incarnation of this outlook. Like the July 7 monument it was, in its time, devastatingly modern; yet piercing in its simplicity. Erected in wood for the first Armistice Day in 1919, the form proved so instantly popular that the architect was commissioned to have one built in stone for 1920. It reminds us that the grief provoked by nearly a million dead from Britain and the Empire was so immense that no extravagance of words, or sculpted gesture, could even begin to convey it, or the pointlessness of the sacrifice. The gently sloping lines and plainness of the stone have for 90 years embodied the scale of the loss. And three words were all that were needed to convey the nation's reverence for its heroes: "The Glorious Dead".

It is what seems to me to be the direct link in tone and expression between the Cenotaph and the July 7 monument that seals in my mind the utter rightness of the latter. The expression is of the eternal values of liberty, democracy and justice and their ultimate triumph over their enemies

Posted by Jill Fallon at July 12, 2009 8:27 PM | Permalink