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Architect Remembers Massacre Victims With 'Wounded' Landscape

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Architect Remembers Massacre Victims With 'Wounded' Landscape

Architect Remembers Massacre Victims With 'Wounded' Landscape

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In the summer of 2011, the world first heard of a small island in Norway under the most terrible of circumstances. Utoya Island was a youth camp run by Norway's Labor Party. One day in July, a heavily armed, right-wing extremist stepped onto the island and began shooting at random. Sixty-nine people died, over 100 were wounded; almost all, young people. This month, artist Jonas Dahlberg was commissioned to create a memorial. He described to us the experience he envisions for those who come to look out on the island from a peninsula across the lake.

JONAS DAHLBERG: You start your walk through a, - what do you say? - 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.

MONTAGNE: Down into the landscape, and into a short tunnel. When you emerge, you are unable to go any farther. You can't get to the tip of the peninsula because it has been cut off, severed. So all you can do is look across a narrow channel of water at what is now a wall of polished stone, engraved with the names of the dead.

DAHLBERG: It becomes almost like a gravestone. It's 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.

MONTAGNE: It's being called a memory wound. Exactly what do you mean by that?

DAHLBERG: During my first site visit, the experience of seeing those gunshots - and you can see 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.

MONTAGNE: On the day of the massacre, just hours before launching his shooting spree on the island, the killer set off a bomb in downtown Oslo, leaving eight people dead. As those grim events were unfolding, artist Jonas Dahlberg had been out with his brother, and stopped in at a seaside village.

DAHLBERG: In the harbor, it was silent, and this is the higher end of summer. So, it's normally very, it's a very lively place. And it was total silence there; and it was a very, very strange feeling in the whole small village. And it's totally impossible to grasp what is going on. And then it just kept on. It's still almost impossible to understand it. It's also one of the reasons why it's so important with memorials for these kind 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.

MONTAGNE: Artist Jonas Dahlberg designed the memorial for the 69 who died at a youth camp on Utoya Island. The attack was the deadliest in Norway since World War II. That memorial will open in 2015. And to see a virtual version of what it will look like, go to our website, at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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