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Memorial to Enslaved Laborers
Charlottesville, Virginia

The University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is widely regarded as the quintessential American university campus model. The university has recently acknowledged the fact that all the buildings on campus were built by slaves and the university depended on the labor provided by the slaves living on campus to function. The UVA Memorial for Enslaved Workers is a new permanent memorial planned to formally acknowledge the efforts and lives of the slaves that labored on campus.

Our proposal for the memorial seeks to create a contemporary space of reflection that will provide information about the university’s history, a gathering space for the community, and to acknowledge the difficult history of the institution. The “broken ring” design evokes a clearing as a provisional meeting space, while also incorporating a graphic timeline with inscribed names of the slaves that are known and markers those unknown. The stone construction of the memorial will be fabricated with digital fabrication techniques and “traces” of human forms will be etched in stone to establish a human presence in the memorial without resorting to graphic depictions of specific human subjects.

All images courtesy of Höweler + Yoon

Collaborators:
Höweler + Yoon, Architect
Mabel O. Wilson, Historian/Critic + Designer
Frank Dukes, Community Engagement

Memorial to Enslaved Laborers

Charlottesville, Virginia

The University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is widely regarded as the quintessential American university campus model. The university has recently acknowledged the fact that all the buildings on campus were built by slaves and the university depended on the labor provided by the slaves living on campus to function. The UVA Memorial for Enslaved Workers is a new permanent memorial planned to formally acknowledge the efforts and lives of the slaves that labored on campus.

Our proposal for the memorial seeks to create a contemporary space of reflection that will provide information about the university’s history, a gathering space for the community, and to acknowledge the difficult history of the institution. The “broken ring” design evokes a clearing as a provisional meeting space, while also incorporating a graphic timeline with inscribed names of the slaves that are known and markers those unknown. The stone construction of the memorial will be fabricated with digital fabrication techniques and “traces” of human forms will be etched in stone to establish a human presence in the memorial without resorting to graphic depictions of specific human subjects.

All images courtesy of Höweler + Yoon