TREK: 2005 Normandy, France: My TREK to Normandy

My TREK would take me to Normandy, France, to the beaches and towns of a region where so many lost their lives and where those that did not die that day began their journey to liberate Europe.

My journey will concentrate on three memorials to the fallen soldiers that were completed within the last fifteen years. Each of these three sites was designed from the unique perspective of three major combatants of D-day, America, Canada, and Germany, and each site reflects the disparity in resources used by the different design teams.

I will also visit some ten other sites in and around the Normandy region ranging from persevered architecture to newly created landscapes built in tribute to the war. Lastly, I will visit many non-dedicated sites such as villages and towns in an attempt to discover how the war has manifested in the landscape and culture of the area.

This TREK will begin by delving into the history of D-day as well as memorial design theory.

As a designer, we must be able to design from a multitude of perspectives and anticipate how people with different backgrounds will experience what you create. With a memorial, this becomes the most important consideration due to the extraordinary emotional attachmentssurrounding the event. I will begin my visit to the sites with this in mind and attempt to experience them through the eyes of people with differing relationships to the war; as a person who may have lost someone in the war, or as a veteran, or as someone like myself whose grandparents told fleeting stories of the war.
I will also observe how others react to the site, to attempt to ascertain the effectiveness of each aspect of the memorials.

With pen and water color I plan to capture not only imagery of the landscape but also my emotional response to it. I will also use photography to record and remember this jouney.

I feel that as a landscape architect, the memorial can be one of the most powerful and dangerous tasks to undertake. The importance of these sites to so many people requires that we understand how basic design elements can have a dramatic impact on those we are designing for, and that we must depend on our ability to empathize with a variety of perspectives.

I want to understand how we pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much and those who were victims of violence. I want to learn how we as designers represent an event which is surrounded by the full range of human emotion. I want to find how we engage, heal, and learn from tragedy and how the memorial is used as a tool which allows us to move on with our lives. And finally, I want to pay my respects to my grandparents and a courageous generation.

This experience and what I learn from it will not only translate into a better understanding of memorial design but will also inform all of my design work. It is for this reason I want to do to France, to learn the art facilitating healing through remembrance, and to reach a new level of design.