Emilio Ambasz. Pro Memoria Garden, project for a Labyrinth, Lüdenhausen, Germany, Aerial perspective. 1978

Emilio Ambasz Pro Memoria Garden, project for a Labyrinth, Lüdenhausen, Germany, Aerial perspective 1978

  • Not on view

Pro Memoria Garden was the winning entry in a competition for a memorial that would remind future generations of the horrors of war. The unrealized project consists of a series of small, irregularly shaped gardens divided by seven-foot hedgerows and narrow paths. Children of the town of Lüdenhausen would be assigned one of the plots at birth and assume responsibility for taking care of it at age five. This, it was hoped, would teach them a respect for life. Over time, the hedges would be removed to make a single large communal garden. Ambasz usually addresses the mystical and poetic side of architecture in his work, but here he has used what he considers to be architecture’s ability to produce myth-making acts to suggest a collective commitment to the performative dimension of public space. His practice of giving “poetic form to the pragmatic,” as he has described it, is in this case imbued with a specific political project.

Gallery label from 9 + 1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, September 12, 2012–March 25, 2013.

Emilio Ambasz's Pro Memoria Garden was the winning entry in a competition sponsored by the townspeople of Lüdenhausen, in what was then West Germany, for a memorial that would serve to remind future generations of the horrors of war. The project consists of a series of small, irregularly shaped gardens with seven-foot-high hedge walls separated by narrow paths. Children of the town of Lüdenhausen would be assigned one of the plots at birth and would begin to assume responsibility for taking care of it at the age of five. This, it was hoped, would teach them a respect for life. Over time, ideally, the hedges would be removed to make a single large communal garden. This aerial perspective shows the arrangement of the plots into a labyrinth, a form taken from ancient mythology and adapted by Ambasz to create a space for a contemporary ritual. The flatness and the minimalist style of the drawing allow us to appreciate the labyrinth's shape, while the reference in the background to the landscape and horizon line anchors the garden to the earth. Ambasz generally addresses the mystical and poetic side of architecture in his work, even when he is using modern technology. "It has always been my deep belief," he writes, "that architecture and design are both myth-making acts . . . The architect's or designer's milieu may change but the task remains the same: to give poetic form to the pragmatic." Ambasz's drawings generally represent the end product of a design process that is developed in his mind rather than on paper.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Melanie Domino, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 200.
Medium
Color pencil, color ink, and graphite on paper
Dimensions
19 5/8 x 58 5/8" (49.8 x 148.9 cm)
Credit
Gift of Pierre Apraxine
Object number
440.1997
Department
Architecture and Design

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