In Memento Mori. How will we remember the dead from the Covid-19 Pandemic?
“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague
The architecture firm Gómez Platero is leading a $1.5 million project to create a monument to the victims of COVID-19 — the world’s first large-scale memorial to those lost in a pandemic — on the shores of Montevideo, under the direction of Uruguay’s president, Luis Lacalle Pou.
This dynamic monument will take the form of a massive circular structure that is nearly 130 feet in diameter. The circular platform is expected to welcome up to 300 visitors at a time and contain an open void at its center, which will look down toward the ocean below. It is a worthy attempt to remember those who have died — a place to comtemplate those who have perished and the enormity of their loss for a family, for a country and for the world. A place also, to remind us all, of the connection between the power of Nature and the conditionality of Humanity. It is bordering on the sublime.
In London a memorial garden is planned for the city’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site will consist of 33 blossoming trees, one for each of the city’s boroughs. In a city of concrete and steel this natural monument of living — and growing — remembrance seems fitting. But it does seem rather inadequate to the task of a memorial that should remind us — and provoke us — into a much-needed acknowledgement, that human life is sacred. 33 trees just does not provide that. You can plant 33 trees anywhere and at anytime. This memorial must be different and it must be memorable.
For the whole purpose of a memorial is to act as a focus and container of memory. A memory of death. But this is completely untrue for the Spanish Flu in 1918 and for the 3 years it raged around the world killing millions. There were literally NO memorials. Only the graves of the dead were there for limited remembrance. Nothing large or state produced was ever mooted or created. Despite 50 million people worldwide dying from an influenza virus a century ago, the 1918…