The proposed competition design for the National Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, Florida reconsiders the program by consolidating the Pulse Archive of artifacts at the Memorial, maintaining that everything related to the remembrance of Pulse should remain on the original site, rather than relocated to the site designated for a new museum. As a […] … Read More

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National Pulse Memorial & Museum Design Competition

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The proposed competition design for the National Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, Florida reconsiders the program by consolidating the Pulse Archive of artifacts at the Memorial, maintaining that everything related to the remembrance of Pulse should remain on the original site, rather than relocated to the site designated for a new museum. As a […] … Read More

The proposed competition design for the National Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, Florida reconsiders the program by consolidating the Pulse Archive of artifacts at the Memorial, maintaining that everything related to the remembrance of Pulse should remain on the original site, rather than relocated to the site designated for a new museum. As a result, the museum site can be redefined as a flexible support facility for the Memorial, developed thoughtfully with engagement with the community to respond to their needs over time.

In closing their presentation to the jury, Charles Renfro and Rene Gonzalez outlined the motivations that drove the design:  “This neighborhood is the final resting place for 49 souls who were impacted in the prime of their lives, doing what they loved. We must be vigilant in deciding how this tragedy is commemorated, if and when it becomes the foundation for a broader urban initiative for Orlando. It is not a tourist attraction, icon, or excuse for gentrification. The project should first and foremost serve the family, friends, and survivors of Pulse. It also has the opportunity to serve our community as a catalyst for reflection and healing.”

The design team – comprised of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects with Raymond Jungles, Teresita Fernández, and Oliver Beer –  issued the below statement:

“As members of the LGBTQ+ and Latinx family, June 12, 2016, forever changed our lives. On a night that began in celebration – much like countless nights we’ve participated in – all went black. We feel a deep connection to those taken and impacted, so for them, we must never forget that Pulse nightclub was and should always remain brilliant, glittery, and gay.”

The design team developed a Memorial design proposing a garden and sanctuary that is both solemn and celebratory. The sanctuary sits within a contemplative sound garden of cypress trees and natural ponds, with 268 reflective columns, each of which honors the life of an individual who was affected but survived the shooting. Integrated into these columns is a sound installation that creates a symphony of music as visitors approach. A delicately draped, beaded shroud protects the walls of the original club. Ascending above the original structure, visitors enter the sanctuary, which is supported by 49 rainbow-colored ceramic tile columns commemorating the 49 lives taken. They dance and ascend towards the sky, unbroken and strong, while physically supporting the roof and the floor. Circular glass openings surrounding these columns open views down to the original club and dance floor below, while tinted glass skylights fill the space with shimmering colored light from above. A perimeter scrim covered with mementos left by mourners displays the names of the 49 victims.

The Pulse Memorial and Museum gardens intend to offer green spaces to commemorate and celebrate life by gradually ascending from the urban fabric to an elevated vantage point. By using references to ecological processes and plant characteristics these ideas are strengthened. Kaley street will become a wild meandering streetscape connecting the Pulse Museum to the Memorial, while Orange street will offer green oases/places of refuge along the survivors walk towards downtown Orlando.

The Pulse Memorial garden starts at the ground level in a field of poles and Bald Cypresses emerging from “sinkholes”, suggestive of Florida’s unique ecological cycle: after precipitation, erosion creates sinkholes into the limestone ground, which in turn become home for Bald Cypresses. Trees emerge from the water, and their sprouts continue to grow in a cycle of constant emergence and rebirth.

The Archive Slope represents a procession towards a vantage point and a more diverse grove of flowering trees, interspersed with skylights (or sinkholes) from which sunlight beams and a cascade of Golden Creeper hang down into the Archive plaza at the street level, reinforcing the duality of above and below.

The Pulse Museum garden is a suspended green space and elevated sanctuary that will disconnect users from the street level. Visitors get closer to the sky, and the multi-use garden could be a quiet place to ponder or can transform into a place with higher energy for certain events to celebrate life and the love for music and dancing. The garden is surrounded with “protective” thick layers of green planting all around to create a sense of security, and as one moves closer to the center of the space, the garden becomes softer, with lighter and brighter foliage.

The selected plant palette, mostly native, will promote interaction with local fauna, and provide shelter for climate refugees. Native planting is better suited to the site’s climate, and after the establishment period, will require minimal maintenance, ensuring the project’s success.

We enjoyed the collaborative nature of this competition and look forward to visiting the memorial in the future.

  • Year of Completion

    2019 (Shortlisted in International Competition)

  • Location

    Orlando, Florida

  • Architect

    Diller Scofidio + Renfro

  • Architect

    Rene Gonzalez Architects

  • Additional Collaborators

    Teresita Fernández and Oliver Beer

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