Architect Remembers Massacre Victims With 'Wounded' Landscape

  • This illustration, provided by artist Jonas Dahlberg, shows his vision for a "memory wound" in Norway to memorialize the dozens of people who were killed by a right-wing extremist in 2011.
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    This illustration, provided by artist Jonas Dahlberg, shows his vision for a "memory wound" in Norway to memorialize the dozens of people who were killed by a right-wing extremist in 2011.
    Jonas Dahlbert Studio/EPA/Landov
  • This illustration shows how visitors will be able to look out from one side of the gap at a wall where names of the victims will be inscribed. The space between is meant to symbolize how those who were killed are gone and irreplaceable, but are not forgotten.
    Hide caption
    This illustration shows how visitors will be able to look out from one side of the gap at a wall where names of the victims will be inscribed. The space between is meant to symbolize how those who were killed are gone and irreplaceable, but are not forgotten.
    Jonas Dahlberg Studio/EPA/Landov
  • Visitors to the memorial walk on a wooden pathway, through a tunnel and then emerge at the edge of the severed peninsula across from the island where the shooting occurred.
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    Visitors to the memorial walk on a wooden pathway, through a tunnel and then emerge at the edge of the severed peninsula across from the island where the shooting occurred.
    Jonas Dahlberg Studio, courtesy of KORO / Public Art Norway
  • An illustration of what the cut in the peninsula across from Utoya island will look like. The material that's removed will become part of a second memorial site in Oslo.
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    An illustration of what the cut in the peninsula across from Utoya island will look like. The material that's removed will become part of a second memorial site in Oslo.
    Jonas Dahlberg Studio /EPA/Landov

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On a July day in 2011, the world first heard of a small island off Norway called Utoya under the most terrible circumstances. The island was a youth camp for Norway's Labor Party. On that summer day, a heavily armed right-wing extremist stepped onto Utoya and began to walk across it, shooting at random.

Sixty-nine people died, over a hundred were wounded — almost all young people.

This month, artist and architect Jonas Dahlberg was commissioned to create a memorial, due to open next year on the anniversary of this tragedy. Most striking is the way Dahlberg envisions a channel cut clean through the end of a peninsula, a concept he calls a "memory wound." He described his vision to Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.


Interview Highlights

On the experience he envisions for visitors.

You start your walk through a forest of evergreens, which is almost like Christmas trees, on a wooden pathway that are sort of circling through the forest. And you see a little bit of the lake, but you're pretty much enclosed on some sort of contemplative walk through this forest. After a while, this pathway starts to go down into the landscape.

Then, visitors go into a short tunnel and then emerge into daylight, where they stand at the edge of the severed peninsula. Across a narrow channel of water, there is a wall of stone engraved with the names of the dead.

It becomes almost like a gravestone, very polished stone. You cannot reach it. It's close enough to be able to read, but it's forever lost for your possibility to reach.

On what he means by "memory wound"

During my first site visit, the experience of seeing those gunshots ... it was like being in an open wound, and it took me to a stage of deep sadness where it was hard to breathe. So I didn't want to illustrate loss; I wanted to make actual loss. It's just a cut through the peninsula. ...

It's still almost impossible to understand [the shooting]. It's also one of the reasons why it's so important with memorials for these kinds of things. It's to maybe help a little bit to understand what was happening. So it's not just about remembering, it's also about trying to just understand — or helping to understand.

Correction March 20, 2014

The "memory wound" art installation is to be on a peninsula near Utoya Island, not on the island itself as our photo captions originally indicated.

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