By Karen Lewis
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, Newtown, Connecticut, a town of 27,000, was suddenly impacted by an inconceivable tragedy. While the immediate impacts of the event were unimaginably difficult, public health officials immediately began with the community to prepare for long-term mental health and wellness care.
What kind of civic spaces, restorative environments and community landscapes foster recovery? How does the design of a Memorial contribute to the restoration and healing of the community? How does the Memorial recognize the event without reframing the trauma?
Networking Civic Spaces: The environment where one builds resilience is as significant as the memorial that commemorates the event. The memorial n aligns Newtown’s proposed Sandy Hook Elementary Memorial with the broader community health goals of wellness, mental health and compassion. It links together underused civic spaces by providing a landscape network between public parks, the Pootatuck River, Sandy Hook town center and the state forest preserve. By connecting the memorial to other recreational spaces, the memorial fosters exploration, health and community interaction.
Restoration Versus Reminder: The memorial is discretely and respectfully located in the forest between Treadwell park and the Sandy Hook site. In the aftermath of 12/14, the overwhelming temporary memorials located throughout the town were a constant, traumatic reminder of the event. This memorial site takes advantage of existing infrastructure, locates itself discretely within a covered forest, and gives the community opportunity to connect to the memorial without being overwhelmed by its presence.
recent memorials at Virginia Tech and Columbine have tried to capture the emotion of these traumas by documenting the number of lives lost. A memorial must do more than simply document lives lost. The memorial proposed for Newtown develops a broader memorial landscape in conjunction with the town's goals of community support, health and wellbeing.
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