If you wanted to trace the formal history of the British public memorial from Victorian times to the present day, London’s Kensington Gardens would be a good place to start. Opposite the Royal Albert Hall stands the Albert Memorial in all its unapologetic imperial grandeur. Down by the Serpentine is the much more low-key Diana Memorial Fountain, with its water cascades and reflecting pool. Both have their detractors. Both show how difficult it is to design a memorial that strikes a balance between the contemporary and the timeless, and how easy it is to offend some while pleasing others.
On 7 July, a memorial to the 52 people who died in London in the 7/7 suicide bombings of 2005 will be unveiled in Hyde Park. It has been designed by Kevin Carmody (34) and Andrew Groarke (38) whose architectural practice is barely four years old. Groarke is from Manchester, Carmody from Melbourne; the pair met while working for David Chipperfield Architects on the artist Antony Gormley’s studio in King’s Cross. They won the competition to design the 7/7 memorial two years ago and have been working with representatives of the victims’ families ever since. As architects go, they seem inordinately humble. “We are enablers of the memorial as much as designers,” says Groarke, the more voluble of the two. “Our initial proposal was to present a process rather than an actual project, which was risky but it paid off.” The commissioning body was made up of representatives of the Royal Parks and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as well as delegates from six of the bereaved families. “The panel,” adds Groarke, “have been intrinsically involved in every step of that process, including making key decisions in the design of the memorial.”