Designing the Pulse Interim Memorial: Mending a Community
Kody Smith, ASLA
Rachel Taylor, ASLA
Jones Clayton Construction
Laurentanto Sign Group
Design and Construction Detailing:
Phil Kean Design Group
The design is informed by the patterns of use observed on site prior to construction. Key views and moments are celebrated and a flow of movement is suggested to connect the key moments.
Prior to the Interim Memorial’s construction, mourners faced a hot, harsh, and unwelcoming site. Located on a corner lot among busy streets, the site lacked comfortable and protected space for the community to gather.
Despite harsh conditions, there was an obvious desire to interact with the site. Visitors scattered offerings across the site, messages were written on any available surface, and the fence was torn for views of the building.
The rear wall of the building was breached by the FBI to provide a safe exit for survivors during the attack. Prior to the Interim Memorial’s construction, visitors were observed jumping the fence to view this area.
In response to existing patterns observed on site, the design approach was framed from a four-point strategy: interaction, groundplane, lighting, and movement.
The Landscape Architect collaborated with local fabricators and builders to arrange donated services for the project. All seven of the internally lit “love seats” were built by a local fabricator and the Landscape Architect.
A simple and easy-to-maintain native landscape area flanks both entries into the site. The landscape provides a buffer between the memorial and the adjacent retail and enhances the park-like character of the site.
The Landscape Architect carefully coordinated the tight timeline, unique permitting process, and donation processes through close collaboration with all stakeholders. The memorial now receives around 300 visitors per day.
The curvature of the ribbon wall and offering walls suggest movement to visitors, steering them to meander between each of the viewing portals and seating areas and providing a sense of enclosure from the busy streets.
Visitors walk along the curving wall to observe the 700+ photos depicting events from around the world that occurred in response to the Pulse tragedy. The donated photos were carefully arranged by the Landscape Architect.
A viewing portal within the ribbon wall reveals a panel depicting the 49 victims’ names. The Landscape Architect chose this location based on a banner that was placed here directly after the attack.
At the rear of the building, two viewing portals reveal the FBI blast holes through frosted polycarbonate panels. They are illuminated at night to highlight the bullet holes and damage done by first responders.
Inspired by the way in which visitors left offerings in the former chain-link fencing, the new perforated aluminum offering walls provide a dedicated location for visitors to leave memorial objects in a more organized manner.
The frosted polycarbonate message panels are internally illuminated, inviting visitors to interact with the iconic sign at any time of day without damaging the sign itself.
The once cluttered site now provides a peaceful and comfortable space for the community to reflect, heal, and celebrate life until a permanent memorial is built.
In response to the community’s desire for a comforting space to mourn the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, the Landscape Architect, in conjunction with a team of stakeholders, created a vision for a temporary memorial to serve the community until a permanent memorial was built. The design is inspired by patterns of use observed on the site prior to construction and the vibrancy of the original nightclub. Directing the flow of movement, using artful lighting, focusing interaction, and addressing the groundplane were key elements to the design approach. Since opening in May 2018, the interim memorial has received over 55,000 visits. Visitors leave gifts in the offering walls, write notes on the message panel, meander along the graphic ribbon wall, witness areas of the damaged building, and share moments of reflection on the “love seats.” What was once a fenced-off crime scene is now a welcoming space providing the community with a place to heal.