When construction begins this spring on a new Irish memorial dedicated to the victims of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, it will feature a landscape design by Temple University Ambler professor Pauline Hurley-Kurtz.
The memorial pays tribute to An Gorta Mor, or the Great Hunger, which claimed the lives of one million Irish men, women and children. The memorial will be located at Chestnut and Front streets near Penn’s Landing. Hurley-Kurtz is responsible for designing the landscape context of the memorial.
“The memorial has been designed as a peaceful garden of remembrance,” Hurley-Kurtz said. “Our hope is that it will become an educational attraction as well as a destination point for the Irish-American community.”
She said there are many different elements that have gone into creating the memorial’s design, all of which have been used to promote this idea.
“This project has been interesting in terms of its technical challenges,” she said.
The park was redesigned from a rectangle to a circular design so that a massive 30 feet by 14 feet sculpture by Glenna Goodacre-who also sculpted the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.-can be appreciated from all angles. Hurley-Kurtz redesigned the northern third of the park specifically to fit Goodacre’s sculpture, which focuses on three aspects of the famine: the starvation of the Irish people, their journey over the sea, and finally, their entry into America.
Paths were added and arranged with specific views in mind. From the east side you can see the Irish story of impoverished people. From the west side, you can see the new arrival of the immigrants.
Black granite has been incorporated in the memorial in many ways to bring about a unity in the materials used. The black granite, known as St. John’s Black, will be used for the base of the sculpture known as the plinth, as well as in the paving stones. Granite will also be used in three Ogham stones to be placed in the memorial. These stones are similar to ones that stand in Ireland. Two of the stones will be markers and one will be a remembrance stone featuring a poem.
The memorial will also utilize granite in the eight interpretive stations that will be located along the paths. These stones will be designed with elements from patterns found on megalithic tombs and will explain the events that took place in Ireland as well as what happened during the emigration.
Hurley-Kurtz said she used a subdued approach to the design for the planting in the memorial. She tried to incorporate native plants from Ireland as often as possible while still trying to keep the overall theme subdued.
“There is a lack of strong colors like reds, yellows, and strong pinks,” she said. The park will feature all white flowers as well as low native grasses.
“It is similar to a Zen Buddhist garden,” she said. “The garden should be a place of meditation, focusing on texture not color.”
Hurley-Kurtz said the committee is hoping to have the memorial completed by this fall.
For more information call 215-283-1290 or visit the Irish Memorial Web site at www.irishmemorial.org