Tipping Point: When reason becomes repression and an idea overtakes reality, the tipping point is what turns light to darkness and darkness to light.
The team of PLANT Architect Inc. and artists Blue Republic, with historian Eric Beck Rubin is one of six shortlisted teams invited to participate in Canada’s National Victims of Communism Memorial in Ottawa. One of the hallmarks of Communist regimes is the zealous construction of monuments to Communism, from epic-scale constructions to the insidious renaming of cities and streets. Communist regimes stained the nature of the conventional memorial and we believe it is unreasonable to commemorate this historical tragedy and trauma with the same types of monuments, architecture and design that previous regimes used as forms of propaganda. To our team, the key question of this competition was how to make a memorial within a context that calls into question the value of memorials, as we have known them.
Tipping Point comprises five elements which together narrate the journey from Victim to Refuge along the axis from the National Archives (our seat of collective memory), to the Supreme Court (our seat of justice) – a journey of engagement and revelation: The Knot, an 11.3 m tall bronze sculpture; the Processional entry and bronze Ribbon of Names; The Ring, the arena and main gathering space; and The Garden of Nations contemplative garden
The Communist system’s stranglehold on societies it dominated is represented by the Knot: the symbol of control but also the breaking point, of resistance and survival, of suffering and solidarity, imprisonment and freedom, of breaking free of bondage, through its physical, conceptual, and figurative tension. Rope is a universal metaphor – something ordinary and useful that can also be employed in other ways we are all familiar with – a device of detainment and torture.
The Ring is carved into the topography of the park and shapes a powerful bowl-like, embracing space for ceremonies – it is a theatre, arena, and agora – a crucible overlooked by the Knot. It evokes community, solidarity and unity, but resounds with the memory of how those qualities were perverted in precisely these spaces. The space is an embodiment of the fine line between the two.
The Garden of Nations is a contemplative woodland garden with scattered stone erratics. The Canadian community of each country that has or is suffering under a totalitarian Communist regime will be invited to contribute a boulder of a characteristic stone or geology representing their country so as to found this new stone in Canada. Each stone will be engraved with the country name. The richness of the stones from around the world reinforces the cultural richness that these victims have brought to Canada.
The Processional Entry rises upward, dramatizing the entry into the Ring, and carries the park dedication and meaning cast into the 30m long side wall: This Memorial is dedicated to the multitudes who have suffered under Communist regimes, and to those who found refuge in Canada. The Ribbon of Names – a single line of 1000 names – runs as a solemn handrail along the top and continues into and around the Ring, surrounding visitors with a thousand witnesses to the ceremonies in the Ring.