Main image: Dean Jay explains the idea behind the design
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) announced that the successful design for a proposed new memorial honouring black South Africans who gave their lives in the First World War (1914-1918) has been won by Dean Jay Architects of Durban.
The announcement was made by the CWGC’s creative advisor, internationally renowned architect and chair of the adjudication panel, Sir David Adjaye, following a competition that attracted more than 50 entries from across South Africa.
Imaginative memorial proposal
Liz Woodfield, the CWGC’s director of external relations who is overseeing the project, said: “I would like to congratulate Dean Jay Architects on their design for the proposed new Cape Town memorial. Their solution is imaginative, sensitive and entirely appropriate. It will fulfil its function, as a memorial bearing the names of more than 1 600 South Africans, but it will also become part of the rich artistic heritage of the War Graves Commission and indeed South Africa.
“This is a step closer to honouring those men in a manner befitting their sacrifice. Next year we hope to begin construction of a memorial that will provide a new focal point of remembrance in South Africa, to South Africans and for all South Africans.”
An important mission
Sir David Adjaye added: “When I was asked to be involved in this project, I was so thrilled as it is such an important mission that the CWGC has embarked upon, and to understand the power of architecture and what it can do in this space should be commended.
“It was a unanimous decision, as something about the successful design really stood out and showed an example of how a monument can work within the context of South Africa but also more widely as a model for thinking about monuments of the future. It tackles the issues, but it also manages to complement the site and be respectful of the history, while announcing itself very clearly. It is a light touch with a high impact.”
Memorial homed in Cape Town
The proposed new memorial will be homed in the Cape Town Company’s Garden and will be funded and maintained in perpetuity by the CWGC. The memorial acknowledges the important role the servicemen played and memorialises their names, sacrifice and their memory at the heart of the Cape Town community.
This project forms part of the findings released last year by a special committee, whose mandate – agreed by the commission’s six-member governments – was to produce a report on identifying gaps in the commemoration of all servicemen who died during service and propose how such gaps could be rectified.
Dean Jay of Dean Jay Architects says: “As an architect, a memorial offers an opportunity for emotional expression relatively unencumbered by the constraints of function. As a veteran of war, I am personally cognisant of its impact on both soldiers and their families.”