Sunday, October 6, 2019

onePULSE Memorial and Museum Models

The six architectural firms that were selected to submit Pulse Memorial and Museum designs to the onePULSE Foundation, now have their models on display at the Orange County Regional History Center (65 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL) through October 10, 2019. The six firms submitting were...
  • Coldefy and Associés with RDAI, Xavier Veilhan, dUCKS scéno, Agence TER, Prof. Laila Farah
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects with Raymond Jungles, Inc.
  • heneghan peng architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, Sven Anderson & Pentagram
  • MASS Design Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Sasaki, Sanford Biggers, Richard Blanco, Porsha Olayiwola
  • MVRDV, Grant Associates, GSM Project and Studio Drift
  • Studio Libeskind with Claude Cormier + Associés, Thinc, and Jenny Holzer
I will refer to the submissions just by the names in bold above for convenience.

The model in the foreground of my sketch by Studio Libeskind was one of my favorites in terms of of the design for the memorial. They propose a heart-shaped design of 366 rainbow gates, each for a day of the 2016 calendar year that creates a walking path around the club. Victims names appear on the gate that corresponds to the date of their birth. That path then cuts through the Pulse nightclub in a Z/broken heart pattern. They propose projections inside the club that are words of love and loss spoken by those impacted. This feels like a weaker aspect to the design concept.  The areas inside the heart pattern become a community space. There is a break in the heart pattern that is the entry into the club and symbolizes June 12, the day of the shooting. The theme of the design is Perpetual Light. The design then spills out onto Orange Avenue up towards Orlando Regional Medical Center with landscaping. Orlando is the most dangerous city in America for pedestrians and the present sprawl of Orange Avenue doesn't seem a welcoming site for a peaceful "Survivors Walk."

The museum design proposed by Studio Libeskind is a tall, boxy sculptural form that is meant to resemble a standing figure. Though the idea that it represents white light being broken up into a great diversity of colors, it just feels monstrous, like the iron giant. The museum seemed less thought out than the boxy form. It is the less inspiring half of the studio's proposal. Each model also had a second small scale model that showed how the museum and memorial would fit into the Orlando Urban landscape. These were helpful to consider the future of the how SODO district might look.

The museum designed by Coldefy, was, on the other hand, well thought out and truly inspiring. The museum spirals upward with a central core that is dedicated to the museum. Each level had outer areas that incorporate landscaping and bright light. Vertical gardens and public plazas create new community places, and a rooftop promenade offers views to the memorial and over the entire district. It feels like a space station, modern and sleek with spiraling forms. Modular storage is explored in the schematics, making it clear they considered the storage of archival items. The museum also has a large community space for presentations and possible performances. This amazing museum design seems big and ambitious for small town Orlando, but it is my top pick.

In the Coldefy design the club is kept as an empty shell surrounded by a circular encompassing overhang that acts as a sun shade and protection from rain for visitors. The original Pulse fountain is maintained which feeds a large circular reflecting pool and the water cascades over the base which has the names of the 49 who lost their lives that night. The pool is lined with 49 colors that radiate towards the public spaces. A slice of the club is removed in a V shapes pattern and that section is preserved for the Pulse Museum, while the rest of the building is kept intact as an empty form, a memory of times past with a canyon walkway through it. A garden around the club is filled with 49 trees. I found it ironic that they were all orange on the model since we never experience fall here in Orlando. I noticed a wall that would break the street noise which was an intelligent design choice. Together they transform the SODO district. Once again, a top choice for me.

MVRDV had a memorial design which would allow visitors to walk under the club which has the bullet holes and damage covered in gold. Though a bold choice, it seems impractical. Water would likely pool in the new sinkhole created, and quite honestly it might best function as cover for a homeless tent city. The landscape consists of 49 trees chosen by victims’ families with atmospheric lighting.

The MVRDV museum is designed to look like LOVE written in cursive and slanted up from the ground. The sloping roof top is covered in green-space but seems impractical, since people who go up there would be surrounded by walls making the experience feel confining. Having a museum occupying the inner strokes of a cursive shape might also feel confining.

MASS Design Group surrounded the Pulse Nightclub with giant wedge shaped shards that act as a large waterfall feature. The club is contained withing the water feature, only faintly visible through the cascading water. The names of the 49 victims are at the base of the fountain feeling much like the 9/11 memorial. Though the nightclub remains, it is encapsulated and contained. The museum design is consistent with large wedge shapes thrusting towards the ground. It reminded me of the Star Wars Sandcrawler where droids go to die. It also reminded me of cheese graters and Hollywood sets with false facades. Needless to say, this was not my favorite design.

heneghan peng was the starkest of the designs for the memorial. My favorite aspect of the design is a stark wall that simply has 6.12.2012 emblazoned on it with 6 foot high carved numerals like on a gravestone. The curved linear exterior design of the museum is nice. Its curves embrace public spaces along West Kaley, tilting upwards to provide shade. At its heart is a matrix of flexible chambers. The interior however feels dark and cavernous like a mall. This felt cold to me and not fully thought out.

Diller was my lest favorite of the designs. The memorial model appeared like a birthday cake with candles on top. The plan is to have pillars through the club which illuminate in rainbow colors. The impression is of stripper poles or ballistic tracks of bullets through a crime scene. Not only that, but the club is surrounded by similar poles. It all felt wrong and disconcerting to me.  The club is surrounded by what appears to be a beaded curtain. The museum design seemed to surf through a variety of scenarios as though they had no idea where to begin the final design. In general, they incorporated green space concepts with a series of blocks for the museum itself. Nothing seemed right.

Regardless of how I feel, you should look through the videos and design drawings and decide for yourself what you feel would work best for the memorial and museum south of downtown. If you are local, go in this week and leave your comments. If you aren't local, visit the onePULSE Foundation website to review and leave your comments there. 

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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