10 September 2007

Noguchi -- model for "Memorial to the Atomic Dead, Hiroshima" (above ground)

model for Hiroshima Memorial (unrealized proposal), 1952.

This photograph depicts the above ground portion of Noguchi's proposed memorial. You can view an image of the overall site design here.

This model represents the arch as one massive piece of carved granite. Realizing that such an arch was impossible to create on the site, Noguchi subsequently worked out in detail the construction, erection, and fabrication required for creating this monument as visible here.

I've found this image of the memorial to be compelling and powerful. While it seems to draw upon the parabolic arch shape of Eero Saarinen's design for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the Saint Louis riverfront, it clearly expresses an archaic, heavy weight of darkness. This character is a complete reversal of Saarinen's design emphasizing modern construction, materials, aerodynamics, and lightness.

The aspect of this photograph that has continually puzzled me is the juxtaposition of the massive arch with what I believed was a bowl-shaped funerary urn below it. Viewed in this manner, it seems to be a complete composition in itself. When the underground crypt is added it seems to replicate the honorary memorial of the urn.

I suspect I continued to view the shape below the arch as a freestanding urn based upon seeing the montaged image of the above and below ground sections simultaneously as well as the general blackness of the arch and the urn shape below it.

After examining these photographs more closely and comparing them to the other available images of the site model, I've come to realize that dark shape is not an urn at all! It is actually a trapezoidal (or rectangular) opening in the ground. Understanding the slot in the pavement in this manner begins to make more sense of the below ground view. That slot in the ground is the "skylight" focusing light upon the granite block below. Since the same slot is viewed from above and below in the montaged image and the two photographs aren't entirely aligned, it suggests two rather different objects.

Archival image from Isamu Noguchi: A Study of Space by Ana Maria Torres (New York: Monacelli Press, 2000).

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