NPS Memorials For the Future Design Competition Submission - Semi-Finalist
Commemorating Personal Experiences with Climate Change
Team: Anita Bakshi, Jennifer Newell, Brian C. Black, Frank Gallagher
Brief Project Summary: Plans have just been announced for the first large-scale relocation of a community within the continental United States, due to sea level rise. While the physical consequences of climate change have been well documented, the emotional cost of the associated environmental degradation is not well understood. This proposal will provide a spatial response reflective of the ecological consequences of climate change that also examines the emotional challenges. Grief, loss, anxiety, and despair need to be addressed, so that people can reflect upon and process change, perhaps moving from collective expression to greater collective action. The proposed memorial garden and trail near the SW Ecodistrict will emphasize sensory experiences and embodied modes of learning, non-linear narratives, and areas of flexible programming and interpretive installations that bring together art and science.
Summary of Approach
Climate change is one of the most salient concerns of our time and is being addressed at many scales and through various media including literature, film, and political venues. These concerns have most certainly affected the design disciplines, leading to an important focus on sustainability, green energy and building, and ecological restoration. While this is of incredible importance, what has remained under-addressed are the emotions that people feel when facing the issues brought about by climate change and anthropogenic changes to the landscape including environmentaldegradation, species loss, and catastrophic storm events. What is called for is a spatial response that goes beyond sustainable landscapes and restored habitats.
There is growing recognition of the major emotional impact of Global Climate Change, with reports like The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States. The 2012 issue of Volume magazine focused on “guilty landscapes,” pointing to the productive capacity of guilt as a kind of “warning system” that can “trigger behavior to reduce the impact” and prevent the further spread of a disturbing force. There are many emotions that arise when people confront climate change, such as grief, loss, anxiety, anger, and despair. Where can we confront and deal with these emotions? Designers generally focus on making places that are beautiful and pleasant, places where one might connect with nature in a positive way. Yet these other emotions also need to be addressed; as we know from the experience of memorials, people need physical sites where losses, traumas, histories, and memories can be commemorated and experienced at a collective site.