The ring of remembrance by Philippe Prost

The ring of remembrance

The ring of remembranceThe new International Memorial of the 1914-1918 Great War is to be inaugurated at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,  Armistice Day, at Notre Dame de Lorette, a site known as ‘bloody hill’ for one of the bloodiest battles in northern France.
The ring of remembranceThe international memorial is surrounded by cemeteries and obelisks commemorating the specific nations who fought in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, with more than 579,606 names from both sides of the war are etched onto the three-metre high walls.
The ring of remembranceThe site is on the edge of the Notre-Dame de Lorette French war cemetery, itself containing the bodies of over 40,000 soldiers, and intended to be the focal point of a region peppered with British, German, Polish and Czech memorials, to name but a few.
The ring of remembranceOn the 2.2 hectare site, by France’s biggest military cemetery, Prost has created a ‘Ring of Remembrance’, which he describes as ‘an expression of brotherhood and peace’.
The ring of remembranceThe Parisian architect Philippe Prost was tasked with designing a low-rise elliptical structure cast in dark concrete for honour all the war dead. Architect Philippe Prost said the form of a ring was chosen to give a sense of unity to the names of fallen former enemies.
The ring of remembrance“I was thinking about the rings you make when you’re a child, or a human ring when everyone holds each other’s hands in a sign of fellowship, and that seemed to me like the image, the form, best suited to speaking about these soldiers killed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, and who today are brought together all in one place” he said.
The ring of remembrance“The ring is a symbol of unity and eternity. It is resistant and durable,” says Prost. But the fragility of peace is suggested in the way the lawn within the ring drops away, and the ring continues as a 4.5m-high suspended walkway, allowing views over the countryside from two narrow openings in the wall, and from beneath it.
The ring of remembranceThis feat is achieved with standard bridge-building techniques, with prefabricated concrete tensioned together. Those precious names are packed together on 500 sheets of bronzed stainless-steel panels, each standing 3m tall, zig-zagging around the inner wall of the ring.
The ring of remembranceAt night they are lit by spotlights embedded in the paving. The svelte typeface, executed in white 10mm capitals, was designed by Paris-based font designer Pierre di Sciullo.
The ring of remembranceThe size of the 328m ring evolved as the research into names progressed, because ‘we knew the number of names but not the number of characters,’ says Prost. In its simplicity and clarity of vision, it’s a moving memorial that hopes to shift the focus from historical discord.
The ring of remembranceLocation: Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Nord-Pas de Calais, France
Architect: Philippe Prost
Surface: 15000 m²
Cost: 5,4 M€
Year: 2014
Supported: Ministère délégué aux Anciens Combattants, Conseil Général du Nord, Conseil régional Nord-Pas de Calais and Lens-Liévin Conglomeration
Photographs: Aitor Ortiz

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