Architect Remembers Massacre Victims With 'Wounded' Landscape

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On a July day in 2011, the world first heard of a small island off Norway called Utoya under the most terrible circumstances. The island was a youth camp for Norway's Labor Party. On that summer day, a heavily armed right-wing extremist stepped onto Utoya and began to walk across it, shooting at random.

Sixty-nine people died, over a hundred were wounded — almost all young people.

This month, artist and architect Jonas Dahlberg was commissioned to create a memorial, due to open next year on the anniversary of this tragedy. Most striking is the way Dahlberg envisions a channel cut clean through the end of a peninsula, a concept he calls a "memory wound." He described his vision to Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.


Interview Highlights

On the experience he envisions for visitors.

You start your walk through a forest of evergreens, which is almost like Christmas trees, on a wooden pathway that are sort of circling through the forest. And you see a little bit of the lake, but you're pretty much enclosed on some sort of contemplative walk through this forest. After a while, this pathway starts to go down into the landscape.

Then, visitors go into a short tunnel and then emerge into daylight, where they stand at the edge of the severed peninsula. Across a narrow channel of water, there is a wall of stone engraved with the names of the dead.

It becomes almost like a gravestone, very polished stone. You cannot reach it. It's close enough to be able to read, but it's forever lost for your possibility to reach.

On what he means by "memory wound"

During my first site visit, the experience of seeing those gunshots ... it was like being in an open wound, and it took me to a stage of deep sadness where it was hard to breathe. So I didn't want to illustrate loss; I wanted to make actual loss. It's just a cut through the peninsula. ...

It's still almost impossible to understand [the shooting]. It's also one of the reasons why it's so important with memorials for these kinds of things. It's to maybe help a little bit to understand what was happening. So it's not just about remembering, it's also about trying to just understand — or helping to understand.

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