The Thorney Island Society – the civic society for the area around Westminster and Parliament Square are campaigning to stop the building of the Holocaust Memorial and underground Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. Here they explain the reasons for their opposition.
If you have your own opinions, either for or against the proposed location, please write in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box at the foot of the page. (All comments are moderated before publication.)
The Thorney Island Society, together with the Save Victoria Tower Gardens Campaign
are concerned by the threat to this small park caused by the decision of the Government and the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation (UKHMF) to build a Holocaust Memorial and underground Learning Centre in the park. The Government has pledged £50m.
UKHMF maintains that this ‘location next to Parliament was felt to be exceptionally fitting for the wider mission of the underground education centre’. However, this seems to have been felt only recently – the plan announced by David Cameron in January 2016 was for a monument to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens with the Learning Centre built elsewhere. An early suggestion for the site of both elements was the Imperial War Museum, which has its own excellent Holocaust Galleries, soon to be renovated and expanded. For some reason this perfect-sounding partnership fell through. The choice to build in the park was therefore by default and there will now be two major Holocaust exhibitions less than a mile apart!
In September 2016 an international competition was launched and an exhibition of the ten entries is now touring a limited number of venues in the UK; it will be in London at the V & A from 29th
July to 22nd
August. The public is being consulted on the merits of the schemes but not on the choice of site. The jury will regard comments on the rival proposals as tacit approval of the site, while the numerous objections, from individuals as well as civic societies such as the Open Spaces Society, the Westminster Society and the London Parks and Gardens Trust, will be ignored, if fewer in number than those ‘approving’ it.
UKHMF says that it is their ‘stated ambition’ that the Gardens are ‘preserved as a public amenity’, but it will be a very different sort of public amenity: a civic space freighted with the horrors of the Holocaust, in which people will feel uncomfortable eating their sandwiches or taking exercise.
London cannot afford to lose this tranquil small park, not even for this worthy cause. The only significant riverside green space in central London that is not separated from the river by a main road, it also provide an uninterrupted view of the House of Lords, framed by magnificent plane trees – this view will also be affected, no matter which scheme is selected.
The competition must be judged on the schemes’ merits in relation to the Tender brief. However, it is our suggestion that the designers of the scheme that best fulfills the requirements of the Brief are then asked to design something for a more appropriate site.
If you are concerned about this development please write to the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org
. The Foundation’s website is at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-holocaust-memorial-foundation
, with a link to the on-line competition entries.
What do you think of the proposals? You may leave your reply in the box below.