More than three years after a white supremacist opened fire in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine worshippers, an architect has revealed a design for a memorial at the church.
The design by Michael Arad features two large and curving stone benches, a gentle fountain and a garden space “dedicated to life and resiliency.”
Arad, along with landscape architect Peter Walker, designed the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City after he won an international design competition.
The design for The Mother Emanuel Nine Memorial in Charleston “has been in the works for more than a year,” the Charleston Post and Courier reports, “a result of a quiet collaboration among survivors, families of the nine deceased church members, the congregation, other civic leaders” and Arad, who is a partner at Handel Architects in New York.
The newspaper writes that Arad was selected for the project without submitting drawings or a proposed design. Instead, he was asked to write essays about forgiveness and his approach to design.
“I think that was very wise,” he told the Post and Courier. “For me to suggest what should be built here without any knowledge of who is involved and what their feelings are and what their hopes and aspirations are would be beyond presumptuous.”
After speaking with the community, Arad developed a design that incorporates a garden space, a memorial courtyard and two “fellowship benches” facing each other across a marble fountain.
“An opening between the two benches widens towards the entrance, welcoming strangers to enter and join in community,” Handel Architects wrote in a design statement. “The high backs of the benches arc up and around, like sheltering wings. They provide a sense of enclosure, and like a pair of arms, [cradle] visitors inside this space.”
The fountain features the name of the nine people killed in the shooting: The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie J. Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Vontrease Middleton Doctor, The Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. and Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson.