Australia War Memorial


102,000 Australians died in battle during WWI and WWII, and this little corner near Hyde Park is the site of their memorial in London.  I’m not exactly sure why this site was chosen, but the curving wall does echo the shape of the traffic island on which it stands.

Fittingly constructed of West Australian granite, the wall has the hometowns of all the soldiers carved into it. Certain letters are bolded, so that from a distance the bolded letters spell larger words that refer to the battles in which the men and women from Oz participated. This effect, of the dual-layered text, struck me as a great use of typographic design. It also layered the locales of birth and death in quite a meaningful way.

Although there are some comparisons between this memorial and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, the differences mark an important distinction in how society viewed each conflict. This memorial lists places, not people, while Maya Lin’s design focuses more on the individuals involved, and their personal sacrifice.

Both walls consist of dark stone in a curved line, and both rise up from the surrounding grass. But the Vietnam Memorial seems almost to sink into the ground — it’s much heavier and more solemn. The Australian memorial fits too perfectly into its prescribed space; if it makes sense to say, it belongs there too well and sits too easily on the grounds.

Memorial Design is an incredibly difficult thing to do well, and the dangers of doing it poorly seem to have much greater weight, both socially and emotionally, than other typical design works. While I think we can all identify a good design when we experience it, it is much harder to quantify the reasons why a memorial lacks gravitas.

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Posted on 26/05/2010, in Exploring the UK, Within London and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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