Brooks + Scarpa’s Passage of the Heart, a monumental interactive sculpture clad in locally sourced limestone and bronze panels, has been selected by the Florida State Legislature as the winner of a competition for proposals for a Florida Holocaust Memorial to be installed on the South Plaza of the Capitol complex in Tallahassee.
The idea for a Holocaust-memorializing public monument on the grounds of the state capitol was led by Tallahassee attorney Steve Uhlfelder and first formally proposed by former Democratic Florida House of Representatives member Jared Moskowitz in 2015. The following year, the Florida Legislature passed legislation for a memorial at the capitol honoring those who survived the Nazi-inflicted atrocities of the Holocaust while remembering the millions of people, including 6 million Jews, who didn’t. A Holocaust Memorial Review Committee was subsequently formed and tasked with selecting three finalists to realize the new memorial at the modernist Florida Capitol complex, which was designed by Edward Durrell Stone as a joint venture with Jacksonville-based Reynolds, Smith and Hills.
South Florida is home to the largest population of Holocaust survivors in the United States and the state is currently home to five Holocaust museums and memorials.
In 2018, legislation was approved for a separate memorial at the Florida Capitol’s South Plaza acknowledging the “fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the American colonies,” per the state’s Department of Management Services, which is the agency overseeing both memorials. Although its current status is unclear, that memorial would be the first on the grounds of a U.S. state capitol memorializing slavery.
Although established in Los Angeles, Brooks + Scarpa has deep ties to the Sunshine State. Principals and life partners Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa, who were awarded by the AIA with the prestigious Gold Medal at the end of last year, are both native Floridians who met while studying architecture at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to its L.A.-area office, the firm also maintains a studio in Fort Lauderdale.
Soaring 16 feet high, the steel-framed, Miami limestone-faced Passage of the Heart will invite visitors to enter through a portal into the center of the sharply angular memorial, which will feature a bronze panel-clad interior. Twenty-two panels in total will cover the interior, a figure that represents the number of countries in which Jewish communities were decimated during the Holocaust.
As Brooks + Scarpa detailed in a project description: “It is intended that the bronze panels be etched with random numbers symbolizing the registration numbers forcibly tattooed on the Jews when they were brought to the death camps. Each tiny set of numbers cut through the bronze panels would represent the 6 million people murdered in the camps, and the numbers would cover the entire surface of the panels so visitors can see the magnitude of the loss of life.” As envisioned by the firm, the numbers will be backlit and glow in the evening as a “symbol of enduring life through tragedy.”
“Some may see the bronze panels as a reference to the gold extracted from Jews by the Nazi state,” the firm continued. “But it also represents something more hopeful, with the gradual weathering process of the material, which will darken over time like an old penny, suggesting resilience and durability through physical trial. We want to prompt visitors to think about their moral and ethical responsibilities when they see injustice.”
The design of the sculpture will also incorporate spaces between its wall for visitors to leave behind small mementos and remembrances.
Lawrence Scarpa and Jeffrey Huber served as lead designers with Angela Brooks and Arty Vartanyan rounding out the project design team. The $600,000 project is set for completion later this year.
AN has reached out to Brooks + Scarpa for further comment on its win and will update this article accordingly when we hear back.