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Hans van Houwelingen / Riga / Latvia / 2008

ZEME ZINA / The Memorial to Soviet Occupation Victims


Thank you so much for your invitation to participate in this contest.
I am pleased to present a proposal for The Memorial to Soviet Occupation Victims. This text contains an explanation coming along with a scale model and three technical drawings.

context
People have to remember, the earth forever knows. All that earth has seen is kept in its soil and will never vanish. Truth will always reveal, just by looking into the ground.
Earth witnessed the resistance, suffering and sacrifice of Latvian people during the totalitarian communist Soviet regime, which forever will be known. On Stelnieku Square, Latvians sorrow makes itself felt by factually moving its earth. At certain moments an earthquake gives a voice to this lands tragically past. Latvians earth speaks; the tremble emphasizes coming generations to be precautious and admonishes to be aware of the dangers of totalitarianism. ZEME ZINA, the earth knows!

technique
The memorial consists of a technical structure for an underground hydraulic mechanism that causes realistic earthquakes. Computer-controlled hydraulics allows differentiation in the frequency and force of the earthquake. I would suggest randomly, just a few times a day for a few seconds.
On ground level a large (16-25m2), horizontal metal plate is placed in the pavement (or possibly meadow). The text, ZEME ZINA, and the Russian translation of THE EARTH KNOWS, is written on it. It is made from copper, bronze, aluminum or stainless steel.
The earthquakes take place at, and widely around, this plate. The technical drawings show an earthquake area of 81 m2. If necessary the design could be enlarged to 144 m2 or even larger, dependent on the new urban design of the Strelnieku Square.
All technical parts of the underground construction can be easily reached, in case of maintenance.

commemoration
ZEME ZINA, and the Russian translation of THE EARTH KNOWS, is written on a large floor plate on Latvian land. Both texts are placed in such a way that Latvian reading people and Russian reading people are facing each other. Thus making it a place for contemplation and physical encounter. This memorial appeals to remembrance as a mental, but even so a sensual experience, the movement of the earth highlighting this concept.
This proposal tries to enrich  ‘traditional' commemorating into another dimension. It shows that history resides in reality as a dynamic process. That is why this memorial does not appear solely visual, but shakes the earth, to remember, but even so as a reminder.
People will think and talk about the memorial as an experience they had.

location
Due to the fact that there is no vertical urban space engaged the memorial respects the openness of Strelnieku Square by all means. The precise location on the Strelnieku Square can be defined in harmony with the new urban design. Within the totality of the urban design the memorial can be located in the pavement as well as in a lawn. Because it is not causing any dominant sightlines, a binding location is not required.
Taking the Occupation Museum and the Riflemen monument into account, the merely horizontally use of urban space will harmonize with the existing vertical urban elements. The memorial offers great flexibility in order to compose the central axis of Riga in the optimum way.


3D model
The 3D model is made in a way that it can actually move, thus giving an impression of how the earthquake is simulated. The surface of the model can be gently moved by hand in any direction. The top part of the model (street level) can be lifted and removed to get a look at the underground construction. The small nylon rope handles can be used to lift the top part of the model.