MONTICELLO BURIAL GROUND MEMORIAL, Charlottesville, VA
The winner of an international sketch competition with 120+ entries, the memorial seeks to honor the enslaved community at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's historic home. In 2001, archaeologists discovered a large burial site downhill from the house, adjacent to the future Visitor Center (pictured in the site plan). The design amplifies the character of the existing land by creating a rounded space with stone markers and a subtle impression in the terrain. Historically, standing stones arranged in a circle have been used for ceremonial and funereal purposes all over the world, including West Africa, the region from which many Virginia slaves and their ancestors originated. The practice is thought to have begun there. More generally, the circle creates a sense of enclosure, a protected space, and suggests popular forms of communal gathering, particularly for prayer. The memorial uses a circular depression within an elliptical array of standing "stones," placed irregularly around axial views across the site. The carved land and circle recall annual harvest ceremonies, an important social event at Monticello. The material of the markers, concrete with embedded terra-cotta shards, echoes slaves' use of simple uncut stones to mark graves. The pillars are split along one face, a reference both to plowed earth and to the traditional practice of marking slaves' burial sites with fragments of pottery or "broken earthware," which signified the liberation of the spirit from the body. The forms will appear both retained by and released from the land. Since the competition, the Jefferson Foundation has focused more on education and less on commemoration, and no memorial has been built.
AWARDS: Winner, international sketch competition
PRESS: NBC local news, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Charlottesville Daily Progress, Architectural Record, AIArchitect, ArchNewsNow
“The design will provide an avenue of reflection and a space for contemplation of the humanity that endured in conditions of slavery.” —Thomas Jefferson Foundation