Triangle Fire Memorial
“The Shadow and The Leap”
The Triangle Fire in 1911 was a tragic event shadowed the lives of 146 factory workers. It also triggered multiple social changes afterwards leading to the establishment of advanced labor rights and fire safety code. It was the fire that saddened us as well as an incident that brought so much improvement to the society. The lives that are taken and the social improvements shall
be commemorated and remembered.
In light of that, the design situates itself in the context of the fire, history and the city through its very surface and materiality. The design seeks to address the polar opposites of such an incident synthesizing the radical symbol of fire, textile factory, social justice, fragments, the dead and urbanity.
An undulating continuing surface spreads across both sides of the Triangle building’s facades from street level to the 8th floor signifying the power of fire and the very fire incident. Its pleats and folds at the same time recall the surface nature of textile or fabric, which represents the program of the building being a textile factory back in the days. Nevertheless, the surface does
not appear to be smooth. Rather, it is fragmented into pieces, 146 pieces precisely. This fragmentation speaks about the cut and pain that the fire brought about and reminds us how the building was shattered after the grave fire. The number 146 is the signifier of the dead whose lives are intertwined and ceased to continue after the Triangle Fire. In addition, the pieces are
leaning and growing upwards as one walks from Greene St turning the corner to Washington Place. It looks as if it is leaping and that it also resembles a wing that is ready to set free from itself. This signifies the dimension of social justice that the fire had brought about. It was an event that set free us and after comes a better, more human society. Lastly, the cornerwrapping surface signifies the importance of the street corner and that it is essential to an urban
experience. Passersby can visually as well as physically access the information on the mounted panels about the Triangle Fire along the street corner. The curvilinear panels on the pedestrian level would also press on the body enacting an unusual distortion of urban experience.
The material used for the panel is recycled steel, which can withstand the tough weather in New York City, and it is also easily shaped to the desired 3D surfaces. More importantly, steel being the mostly recycled construction material in the North America, the use of it addresses a certain environmental and social awareness. The structural system and detail of the construction would also allow for easy disassembling for regular maintenance on the building’s façade.
At night, LED lights installed behind the panels would cast on the surface of the memorial creating a special ambience of silence and peace. It is the polar opposite of the more proliferating daytime image, which reminds us to shed our condolences for the forgotten dead.
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