Architecture can enable users to connect emotionally to a place, with one of its most vital powers being the ability to evoke memories and remembrance of past occurrences. 

Some of the world’s famous monuments, like the Taj Mahal, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, etc., are great examples of designs that honor, remember, and respect those who are an essential part of their nation’s history. In addition, monuments serve as a tangible cultural record for future generations. 

Architects need to strike a balance between meaning and aesthetics while maintaining the remembered person at the core of the design. Designing such structures to trigger memory and revere the people/incidents it was intended for is the biggest challenge for Architects.

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Taj Mahal_©turtix/Shutterstock

Memorials play a significant role in establishing a cultural identity and sculpting the urban development of a region. In addition, memorials necessitate careful attention to art, materials, and tactile interactions due to their majestic and monumental scale.

Here are five examples showcasing the exemplary design skills of Architects in designing memorials:  

1. Jewish Museum in Berlin 

Ar. Daniel Libeskind‘s Jewish Museum in Berlin serves as a vast memorial to the tragic death of Jews in the Holocaust. The museum, designed as an interactive experience, resembles an abstracted Star of David that guides visitors through several chambers that architecturally express notions of separation, distress, and hope. Libeskind used voids, vacant spaces, dead ends, and judicious daylighting to evoke emotional sentiments. Light-filled empty interiors, sharp angles and edges are the signature styles of Libeskind’s designs. 

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Jewish museum in Berlin_©

2. United Nations Memorial, South Korea

The memorial consists of a cube of smaller “cells,” similar to how the United Nations comprises individual nations. The final shape is formed by fusing these cells, designed to depict the “collective nature of the UN’s identity.” Each piece has a varied purpose, with some serving as exhibition space while others as offices and eateries.

Image 3_UN Memorial, South Korea_© ACME 

Natural light enters the memorial’s core through the hollowed-out interior and skylight, producing a dramatic light that enhances the assembly space. The building also features passive cooling strategies, like the green roof on the top, open for public access.

3. National War Memorial, Delhi, India 

National War Memorial is the winning entry by Ar. Yogesh Chandrahasan’s WeBe Design Lab, submitted for the Government of India’s National War Memorial and Museum design competition.  

The project uses the concept of ‘rebirth’ of the martyred Indian soldiers through their experiences, journeys and heroics expressed spatially. The National War Memorial is a 42-acre landscaped public park in the shape of a hexagon. It is a semi-subterranean design that remains a people’s place but with a different level of emotional weight. A concentric arrangement represents progressive acts of protection, sacrifice, courage, and immortality. The ‘Thyag Chakra’ carries the name of each martyred soldier who contributed to the nation’s protective wall.       

The obelisk with the eternal flame represents the Jawans’ immortality, as they will never die but live eternally in our memories. It’s part of a more extensive circular court that also serves as a ceremonial place. 

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National War Memorial_©Government of India
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National War Memorial_©Government of India

4. 9/11 Memorial, New York, USA 

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was formed after 9/11 to supervise the reconstruction of the downtown region, held an international competition in April 2003 to select a design for a memorial dedicated in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

‘Reflecting Absence,’ a design entry submitted by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, emerged victorious in January 2004. The memorial features twin waterfall pools flanked by bronze parapets that carry the names of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

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9/11 Memorial, New York_©Jin S. Lee

The ponds signify “absence rendered apparent.” Although water flows continuously, the ponds will never be full, symbolizing the void created by those killed in the 9/11 attacks. The sound of flowing water transforms the pools into a haven of peace and reflection away from the bustling city.

On bronze parapets edging the memorial pools, the names of the 2,983 victims killed in the brutal attacks of 2001 and 1993 are etched. The victims’ identities are organized by the locations and circumstances they were when the attacks occurred. 

Victims’ relatives were encouraged to request their loved ones’ names be inscribed alongside specific individuals during the Memorial’s construction. Thus, on the Memorial, folks who were bonded in life live together in this fashion.

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9/11 Memorial site_ © John Minchillo/AP Photo

5. Pentagon Memorial, Virginia, USA 

The Pentagon Memorial, designed by KBAS Studio and unveiled seven years after 9/11, is the result of collaboration with victims’ friends and family. The Memorial is a chronology based on the lives of the victims and is located near the impact location of American Airlines Flight 77. Along the lines, each ‘unit’ signifies a space dedicated to the individual.

The Memorial inspires contemplation but does not tell the visitor what to think or feel, allowing personal interpretation. Instead, the Memorial, both discrete and united, aims to capture the enormity of that awful day by integrating layers of specificity that begin to tell the stories of people who lost their lives.

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Pentagon Memorial_©
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Pentagon Memorial Bench_©Staff Sgt. Rebecca Doucette

These strong monuments, which serve as symbolic locations and cultural relics, evoke memory, unanimity, and synergy. They remind us of sacrifice, historical events, and moments that left an everlasting impression on culture or people, often created after a catastrophe or loss. They are meant to educate, inform, and foster understanding while also representing the gravity of the past. As Architects, understanding these emotions and reflecting them in designs to resonate with the people is the biggest challenge.


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Lonely Planet. (n.d.). You’ll be fined if you overstay your welcome when visiting the Taj Mahal. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2021]. 

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Abhiri is an Architecture Professional and Sustainable Designer with a penchant for writing, illustrating and traveling. She is interested in educating and raising awareness about Sustainable practices and strives to be a steward of nature in her designs and daily actions. Coffee, books, watercolors,and a walk in the woods are some of the things that keep her going.