Sandy Hook Memorial

Newtown, CT

Reflected Embrace is place of private reflection that will instill in visitors a deep sense of dignified peace and reflection. It honors and respects the memory of those who were killed and whose lives were touched and altered forever. Conceived as more of an immersive experience rather than a traditional monument, the memorial is expressed through the language of nature and understood through movement, light, and time. Inspired by the natural character of the site “Reflected Embrace” maintains a sense of private reflection within the quiet woods. Design elements include an upper parking area and entry plaza, a gently descending entry path, and a monumental reflecting pool framed by an oval terrace and benches. The parking area framed by rows of evergreen trees leads visitors to the stone entry plaza signaling the entrance marked by an American Flag. The stone entry plaza framed by an a classical allee of native canopy trees creates a welcoming gesture, provides an elevated prospect from which to first glimpse the memorial and its natural setting, and leads visitors to the formal entry path. The path is designed to stretch time and slowly transition one from the day-to-day world and into an honorific place of quiet contemplation and reflection. It stretches the presentation of the memorial over two-and-a-half minutes of gradual decent of unfolding views. The existing grade change of 20 feet is resolved with elegance and purpose through a sculpted earthwork that provides a seamless ADA accessible entry sequence. The formal tree plantings framing the path create an arcing sliver of sky that opens onto an oval reflecting pool nestled within the woods. The large arcing sculptural landform supporting the entry path blends into the existing hillside creating a bowl shaped space that holds the shallow reflecting pool and provides acoustical separation from its context. The generous scale of the reflecting pool prevents one from seeing the entire pool in a single view creating a sense of physiological immensity. The pools surface is lined in black polished stone greatly enhancing the reflectivity of the water. The scared soil is located below its center. This creates a strong, simple figure framed by honorific stone pavement. This pavement, comprised of monolithic granite slabs are arranged along a southwest axis aligned with the adjacent school. The scale and materiality of this pavement reference notions of permanence and give the memorial an appropriate sense of physical and metaphorical weight. All twenty six Swenson granite benches provided by the hundreds of citizens across the country are equally spaced around the reflecting pool buttressed by stately canopy trees. Visitors are invited to sit on the benches and view the reflection of the stone, trees, benches, and surrounding woodland in a solemn reverence to the victims of this senseless tragedy. As one walks around the circular terrace the landscape shifts and changes while the omnipresent black circle remains unchanged signifying our eternal commitment to honoring the memory of the lives lost and families forever changed. The overall site circulation system is connected to a new woodland trail network organized that guide visitors around ponds, forest, and hillsides beyond and is imagined as a secondary memorial experience. Security lighting, low-maintenance landscape elements, and emergency vehicular access are seamlessly integrated to entire five-acre site design. The scale, proportion, and natural material choice communicated through earth, trees, water and stone is intended to evoke a sense of eternal permanence and dignified weight befitting an event of such monumental proportions. On behalf of our team, we thank you in advance for this opportunity to make a proposal for the memorial to honor the children and educators who tragically lost their lives five years ago on December 14, 2012.