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Design Evoking Rebirth of Fire-Scarred Forest Wins Contest for Centerpiece of National AIDS Memorial Grove

March 25, 2005

Officials for a contest to create a centerpiece for the seven-acre National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, Calif., on Wednesday announced that two New York City-based architects have won the competition, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. The National AIDS Memorial Grove was conceived in 1989 as a "living memorial" by a group of San Francisco residents whose partners, friends or relatives had died of AIDS-related causes and was given national memorial status in 1996, according to the AP/Chronicle. It is the only federally recognized AIDS memorial in the United States. The winning entry for the contest -- titled "Living Memorial" and created by Janette Kim and Chloe Town -- plans to use elements from a fire-scarred forest in an attempt to evoke a sense of "loss and renewal," according to the AP/Chronicle. The centerpiece would feature black carbon fiber trees, a "charred" wood deck and a burned, "bark-like" walkway that eventually would grow greenery, according to the AP/Chronicle. "While the design is at first frightening, it is also rich with the eventual triumph of life," Ken Ruebush, co-chair of the contest, said, adding, "In this way, it echoes the intentions of the Grove's founders."

Board of Directors Not Committed
Although a panel of judges selected Town and Kim's entry out of 201 submissions from 24 countries, the memorial's board of directors has not committed to the design. About $2 million would have to be raised to build the centerpiece, and there has been a "continuing debate" among board members over whether the memorial needs to be altered, the AP/Chronicle reports (Leff, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/23). The board will conduct a public discussion and a feasibility study of the selected design before committing to a fundraising drive, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Marech, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/24). "We are very interested to see the public reaction to what we've selected," Ruebush said, adding, "I expect there will be controversy because in San Francisco there is controversy about anything. What needs to be determined is that raising the money to enhance the memorial and to build this feature will serve a purpose in the fight against AIDS." According to Town, she and Kim thought forest fires were an "appropriate metaphor" for a memorial in California, but Town added she hopes the centerpiece would evoke a range of responses and serve as a place for reflection, according to the AP/Chronicle. "There is the potential self-interest, but I really believe there should be a national memorial to build upon this incredibly great space they've already worked so hard to establish," Town said, adding, "It would be nice to be part of bringing national and, if possible, global attention to an ongoing crisis" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/23). Town and Kim's design and the designs of the four runners-up will be on display from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 1 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/24).

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