Together Across Oceans / Juntos a Través del Océanos

Collaborators: Design: Chenyao Tang, Chenyu Pu  ∕∕  Engineering: Tian Yuan  ∕∕  Planning: Theresa O’Neil, Kezia Ofiesh

Role: Landscape Architect / Project Lead

Status: 2019 New York City Hurricane Maria Memorial Competition Shortlisted 

Location: New York City, NY

Remember, Honor, and Inspire

Our design decisions for the Together Across Oceans memorial were driven by the following three drivers:

  • Create a solemn space for remembrance and reflection.

  • Honor those who lost their lives and offer comfort to their families and friends.

  • Leave visitors with a sense of community and hope.

An Immersive Experience

Located on Chambers Street Overlook, the memorial takes the form of a concrete wall that begins low at 2 feet and rises to a height of 10 feet across its 50-feet length. The ramping up of the wall represents both the intensity of the storm, but also the strength and resilience of the people of Puerto Rico in Maria’s aftermath. The angle of the arc, positioned with the existing railing, creates a sense of entry and privacy for experiencing the memorial while maintaining the outlook to the Hudson River. It will provide a moment for calm and reflection, serving as the eye of the storm of the chaos of daily life in the city.

Tracking Maria’s Path

The Together Across Oceans memorial is an arc inspired by Hurricane Maria’s path. The image of the storm’s progress and anticipated landfall is shown again and again in the media during the days preceding and following such a catastrophic event. It is the shape over a million Puerto Rican New Yorkers watched helplessly as danger approached their loved ones in Puerto Rico.

Light in darkness

The memorial will employ technology at the leading edge of materials science. It will be constructed with a unique type of translucent concrete made with embedded acrylic rods that allow light to pass through. Each fiber will create a pinprick of light representing one of the many lives lost in Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. Distribution of the rods follows a cumulative death graph generated based on mortality studies post-hurricane, representing the accumulation of fatality based on time. This intricate pattern reminisces the stars shining in the sky, as we pay tribute to these lost souls. The materials of the arc will allow visitors to experience it close up and interact with the project. The weight of the concrete honors the gravity of this tragedy and the tremendous loss, while the light penetrating through reminds us that there is beauty in Puerto Rico’s resilient spirit that arose as community members took initiative in caring for one another as they collectively rebuilt their lives.

Community Involvement

We propose to collaborate with the local community throughout the design process and to host an open call for submissions of poetry from the community, one or more of which will be included on a memorial plaque mounted on the wall.

Transparent Concrete

Concrete will be durable material in the Site’s coastal environment for its resistance to wind and corrosion. Before hardening, its fluidity, paired with fine formwork, can achieve modern, complex yet smooth designs. The aesthetics of concrete can be further refined with embedded optical fibers, making the concrete translucent. This improvement not only introduces light to the shaded space, but also creates a warmer surface reminiscent of stars, snowflakes, and fireflies. This type of material was first introduced in 1935 and has been applied to both interior and exterior walls. Multiple companies produce this material globally which will allow for competitive pricing in the bid phase of the project.

 © 2023 by Wendy Yifei Wang.