After months of deliberation, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission (SHPMC) narrowed down the memorial design submissions to three contenders during its meeting on April 10.
Newly elected SHPMC Chairman Daniel Krauss led the meeting, with First Selectman Dan Rosenthal present to continue to offer assistance.
In the public participation portion, Newtown resident Richmond Jones, whose submitted permanent memorial design was eliminated from the running, presented the concerns he has about some of the memorials that are still being considered.
He told the commission that he believes the memorial may be at risk of vandalism if not properly monitored, because its location will be in a densely populated area of town.
Mr Krauss assured Mr Jones that the commission has already been in contact with the Newtown Police Department pertaining to security on the site.
Billy Taylor, of Meriden, spoke to the commission on behalf of US Representative Elizabeth Esty’s office. He relayed that Rep Esty has been paying attention to the group’s progress and wants to make it known that she is available if the SHPMC needs any aid.
“Anything we can do to help, we stand here willing,” Mr Taylor said.
The commission thanked him for taking the time to come out to the meeting and offer the office’s support.
During the SHPMC’s previous meeting on April 30, Mr Krauss mentioned that before the commission votes to narrow down the designs, they need to review one more submission. The anonymous design, labeled SH268, had been submitted to the group by its December deadline, but was unintentionally left out from being uploaded with the 188 designs the commission originally reviewed.
On May 10, the commission discussed the last design and found that many members liked its statue of two large wings.
JoAnn Bacon, SHPMC member and mother of Charlotte Bacon who died on 12/14, said, “I think the sculpture is beautiful.”
Despite members expressing an appreciation for that one specific design element, ultimately the members decided the overall concept was not what they were looking for, and SH268 was unanimously voted out of the running.
The SHPMC was joined in person by Advisory Panel member Rob Sibley, Deputy Director of Planning for Newtown’s Land Use Agency; and over telephone with Shavaun Towers, Principal of The Project Studio for Landscape Architecture and Spatial Studies, during the evening’s meeting.
The remaining Advisory Panel members, Thomas Tavella, President of Tavella Design Group, LLC; Robert Mitchell, Principal of Mitchell Architectural Group, PC; Allison Blais, Chief Strategy Officer of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; Joe Daniels, Former President of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; and Deborah Berke, Dean of the School Of Architecture at Yale University, were asked to send their input digitally on the top four designs: SH37, SH108, SH233, and SH240.
In preparation for the meeting, SHPMC members Sarah Middeleer and Agni Pavlidou Kyprianou worked together to create a document for each of the remaining designers that included general requests and specific questions related to each design. While hearing feedback from the Advisory Panel and fellow commission members, they compiled more questions and made updates to the document throughout the meeting.
When reviewing SH37, Ms Towers said she has a concern about the amount of “earthwork” needed, and that the design seemed to be the most invasive of the four, regarding the manipulation of the site that is needed to accomplish the proposed design.
Mr Sibley echoed her thoughts and said the design would potentially need a state and federal evaluation to be approved. However, he said, it may be the hardest to do out of the narrowed down submissions list, but it is possible to achieve the design. With that in mind, the majority of members still felt strongly for the design’s potential and voted to move SH37 forward to the next phase, where designers will be asked to speak to the panel in person.
For the next design, SH108, Mr Tavella said the maintenance of the gardens and landscaping would be high, and that he would recommend the designer use different species.
Mr Sibley identified that this submission appeared to be one of the designs that would make the least impact on the wetland’s structure, and that it was one of his personal favorites.
The SHPMC commission voted unanimously in favor of keeping SH108 in the running.
When reviewing SH233, which was included because of Ms Bacon using her passion vote last meeting to move it to the next stage, Advisory Panel member Ms Berke said the design seemed “unnecessarily complicated.”
Ms Middeleer brought up the design’s accessibility issues and that the intended pathway system for the visitor’s experience would be problematic for visitors with mobility challenges.
Shortly into the discussion, Ms Bacon said that after much reflection from the last meeting, she has decided that she no longer feels the design’s element called “The Void” is enough to keep it as a possible design selection. Unless someone had a change of heart about the design, she said, she felt inclined to take it out of the running.
With no member voicing the desire to use their passion vote to keep it, the commission then voted, and the design was unanimously eliminated.
“I want to thank you for the work you put into this,” Ms Bacon said to Ms Middeleer and Ms Pavlidou Kyprianou after the vote, regarding the document of specific questions for the designer they took the time to create.
When the final submission, SH240, was discussed, Mr Sibley said the design looked the most feasible out of the top selections in the running.
Ms Middeleer noted she would like the ask the designer about the possibility of modifying the open lawn element in the design and the placement of the parking lot.
Overall, many members voiced their appreciation for the design’s element called “The Overlook,” where people could go to see a higher view of the memorial, and SH240 was unanimously voted to stay in the running.
With the top three designs newly selected, Mr Krauss revealed the designers for each submission. SH37 was submitted by designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck from Berkeley, Calif.; SH108 was submitted by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Ariz.; and SH240 was submitted by Joan Macleod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects from Minneapolis, Minn.
Mr Krauss says he will be sending out letters to those who have been chosen to move forward, as well as a separate letter to those whose submissions were not selected.
In the letter for the three designers who have been asked to move on to the next stage of the selection process, there will be a request for each of them to come to Newtown to give a presentation about their design on Tuesday, July 10 (those unavailable will be given an alternative date of Tuesday, July 17).
The public is welcome to attend the next SHPMC meeting on Thursday, June 14. For more information, visit newtown-ct.gov/sandy-hook-permanent-memorial-commission.