Naomi Darling Architecture
Sandy Hook Memorial
New Town, CT
Naomi Darling - Principal
Darrell Petit- Principal (Darrell Petit LLC)
Kate Ballantine - Ecology Consultant
Nicole De Araujo
The Sandy Hook Memorial Park is a place of reflection, peace, comfort and healing within the embrace of Mother Nature. We envision creating the memorial as an episodic experience within the existing landscape that is varied in topography and light, allowing the features of the site to offer different types of places for grief and healing. Our approach will be to first open up the site to expose what is already there and to use a systems approach to restore the ecological integrity of the area. The episodes will juxtapose long-lasting stone with more ephemeral, growing native trees and shrubs to visibly record a healing process. The site will be connected by walkways that flow contiguously throughout the memorial space linking the individual areas into a greater whole.
An Entry Driveway will guide and slow down cars greeting visitors with an Entry Stone Wall engraved with Sandy Hook Memorial Park. The Parking Area will be designed with bio-swales, granite benches for sitting and waiting, and restroom facilities with composting toilets mounted with solar panels to power the security lighting at dusk. An elongated crushed stone aggregate Approach Walk gradually descends to the Memorial Field offering glimpses of the Standing Stones of local Connecticut boulders, flowering Dogwood trees that provide food for songbirds, and the Memorial Wall. Arriving in the middle of the Memorial Field, a visitor will have an expansive view and a multiplicity of choices of movement and direction including a curvilinear walkway extending left or right around the field to the Memorial Wall. The Memorial Wall, rising to ten feet in height, will be composed of natural or split face granite elements engraved with the names of the victims. In our renderings, we have shown the donated benches of Woodbury Granite and Autumn Pink Granite reimagined as elements within the wall of local historic Stony Creek Granite. Within the field are twenty-six Standing Stones symbolizing those who have perished before us but endure with us always, and eight living growing flowering Dogwood trees symbolizing the infinity of life and deep roots of support within the community of Sandy Hook. Alongside the walkway are granite seating elements and extensive plantings of vegetation and flowers for butterflies and birds offering opportunities for viewing, stopping, touching, listening, smelling, sitting, absorbing and reflecting.
Continuing to the lower Reflecting Ponds area, visitors will enter into the dappled light of a forested area and hear the sound of moving water and birds singing in the trees. Water with its sounds and reflectivity can be soothing and here we would like to establish connectivity between the manmade water ponds and the adjacent natural wetlands ecosystems. To do so, and to ensure the ecological health of the area, we would propose beginning with a period of monitoring the ponds and surrounding wetlands with the ultimate goal of restoring connectivity with the broader ecosystem. This will include clearing the area of dead branches, installing appropriate native plantings, and possibly reopening the existing outflow pipe. As visitors circumambulate around the ponds on winding walkways and over a bridge, there will be an open Pavilion housing the Sacred Soil vitrine and also offering a place of shelter from the rain, a view of the water, and a place to sit and contemplate. Walking still further along the continuous walkway to its outermost perimeter and highest elevation, a visitor would ascend to the high ground of the Ridge Walk gaining a more expansive perspective and overview of the ponds, the pathways, and beyond.
Our design for this “living memorial” takes advantage of nature’s gifts contained within the site to honor and remember those who have perished and to serve the community of Sandy Hook as a place of healing and respite.