As anyone who has ever run a finger along the list of endless names engraved onto that black wall in Washington, DC or stood in New York on a September 11 and watched those two columns of light beam down to where the twin towers once stood knows, the best memorials have the power to both wound and heal. That’s a lesson that Norway has clearly taken to heart. The stunning design it has selected to commemorate the 69 people that extremist Anders Behring Breivik gunned down while they were on retreat on the island of Utøya, will quite literally incise a deep wound into the landscape.
In an international competition to design the memorial that drew over 300 entries from 45 countries, Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s submission won the judges’ unanimous support. It’s easy to see why. Dahlberg’s design will physically cut away the landmass on the Sørbråtan peninsula across from Utøya, leaving two cleaved halves. The names of the victims will be inscribed on a wall built into the exposed cliff, and although visitors will be able to stand across from the names, the intervening water will keep them from getting close enough touch them. “The void that is created,” wrote the jury in its decision, “evokes the sense of sudden loss combined with the long-term missing and remembrance of those who perished.”
The stone and earth removed from the site will be transferred to Oslo, to become become part of the memorial to the 8 people killed there when, during the same day’s attack, Breivik set off bombs in two government buildings. That site will also include trees and plants taken from Sørbråtan as reminders that even after so terrible an interruption, as Dahlberg wrote in his proposal, “everyday life must carry on.”
The original version of this story misspelled the Swedish artist’s name. It is Dahlberg, not Dahl.