After governor Andrew Cuomo issued a call out last year for architects to create a memorial in New York City to honor the victims and survivors of Hurricane Maria, a Puerto Rican design team have been selected as the winners.
Puerto Rico is sometimes referred to as the "sixth borough" of New York City thanks to the strong ties between the two places. When Hurricane Maria, the worst storm to hit the Caribbean in nearly a century, ravaged the island in 2017 and left behind death, devastation and $80 billion worth of damage, New York rallied behind Puerto Rico. Fundraisers and relief packages were set up and in 2019, Governor Cuomo established a commission to create a memorial that would honour the victims and survivors, and "stand as an international symbol of the resilience of the Puerto Rican community."
Artists and architects were invited to submit proposals and after 120 entries, it was revealed earlier this month that Puerto Rican architect Segundo Cardona of SCF Arquitectos, and artist Antonio Martorell were chosen as winners. Their memorial comprises of a glass spiral, with the words to “Farewell From Welfare Island,” a poem by the Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, inscribed in Martorell’s colourful calligraphy and silkscreened on the glass panels. The memorial is topped with the star of the Puerto Rican flag.
Cardona says he embraced this project with enthusiasm as it offered him "the wonderful opportunity of transforming a sad memory into something positive and beautiful that could bring solace to all." And Martotell, a well-renowned artist engaged in social causes, was just as keen. Both had collaborated on projects before and both had witnessed firsthand the devastation of Hurricane Maria and its aftermath in Puerto Rico.
Their shared vision saw the duo create a memorial that is visually strong, as well as sensitive to the site and a work of art that draws the observer in, enveloping them in its spiral curve. "The spiral has a formal relationship with the shape of both hurricanes and shells, and shells are by nature a protection for living organisms against a hostile environment such as extreme weather," Cardona explains. "We felt committed to bring together architecture, art and literature in one single powerful message that we hope will engage and invoke reflection on the fate of the many victims."
The memorial will stand in Battery Park City on Chambers Street overlooking Rockefeller Park and is scheduled to be unveiled in its full glory to the public in early 2021.