Norway's Memorial to the Worst Mass Shooting In Modern History

'It's been almost three years since a gunman detonated a bomb in Oslo and then stormed a small summer camp off the coast of Norway, killing 77 people and cementing a record as the worst mass shooting in modern memory. This month, the country revealed plans for a memorial to the tragedy—and it's beautiful.

Designed by a Swedish artist named Jonas Dahlberg, the plan is more land art than architecture. On the island of Utøya, where the gunman gained access to a summer camp by dressing in a police uniform and showing a fake ID on July 22, 2011, Dahlberg proposes creating a massive gap of water and air. By slicing a huge section of the island's landmass away, he would create a steep fjord through the site where the shooting occurred—a void that he describes as "a wound or a cut within nature itself."

According to Dahlberg, the idea emerged during his first visit to the island.

"I noticed how different the feeling was of walking outside in nature, compared to the feeling of walking through the rooms of the main building," he explains in a statement. "The experience of seeing the vacant rooms and the traces of extreme violence brought me—and others around me—to a state of profound sadness."

But, outside, things felt different, as though nature was already in regeneration. "Although we stood directly on the very place where many people had lost their lives, nature had already begun to obscure all traces," he explains.

So he came up with an idea: Rather than building a monument or structure, he would focus on nature itself. A 70-foot-wide gap carved out of the island, separating the headland from the main island, would serve as the ideal spot to reflect and memorialize.

On the jagged edges of the cut, the names of those who died in the attacks would be inscribed into smooth stone. "The names will be close enough to see and read clearly, yet ultimately out of reach," he says. "The cut is an acknowledgement of what is forever irreplaceable."

Public memorials are a difficult proposition. Too bombastic or saccharine, and you run the risk of alienating visitors. Too diminutive or abstract, and you run the risk of failing to provide a space to mourn and remember. Dahlberg's design is the perfect balance: It will literally transform the landscape of the island forever—but by putting visitors out in nature, it will also give people the freedom to take what they will from the experience.

In the end, Norway's approach could serve as a vanguard for other memorials to mass shootings—and the people who are torn between wanting to remember them and trying to forget.'


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Comment by Luara on March 7, 2014 at 4:31am

People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali represent the resistance to Islamic colonization FAR better than Breivik. 

I don't agree with everything she says - the Dutch could not single out Islamic private schools for restrictions. But she does make a lot of good points. 

Comment by Luara on March 7, 2014 at 3:49am

The issue with Breikvik was third world immigration into his country and this is a legitimate grievience in my view.

Yes, uncontrolled Islamic immigration is a big issue.
But that is separate from Breivik as mass slaughterer. Breivik's actions overshadow anything meaningful in his ideology.  I read part of his manifesto, and he is one sick narcissist. 

But making a "memorial" that slashes at Nature, just echoes Breivik's violence, and perpetuates it. 

Comment by Luara on March 7, 2014 at 2:54am

the squirrels on the island rule as far as I'm concerned

I agree! Because some people were shot there, doesn't justify an attack "on nature itself". That is hyperbolic and arrogant.
We ARE part of nature.
I've also stayed up far too late

And I was bleary and sick from an allergy shot.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2014 at 1:02am

Yes, your cynicism and sarcasm gets a little rattling at times. Let me think, It is 11:02 PM Thursday here now. What time are you? 

Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on March 7, 2014 at 12:56am

Don't worry about it. I have an unusual sense of humour and can be too cynical or sarcastic for most peoples tastes and sensibilities at times.

I've also stayed up far too late so you must excuse me.

I care about native squirrels and other indigineous animals who are not only up against human exploitation but face competition from feral animals and plants. An obvious example is the British red squirrel which now only survives in small numbers in protected areas due to the introduction of the feral American grey squirrel.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2014 at 12:51am

A canal is possible, except the Greek canal was through limestone. This stone looks like basalt, or maybe granite. No, it looks more like basalt. 

Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on March 7, 2014 at 12:37am

As a public sculpture it's not as ugly as two sculptures installed in London's Hyde Park in recent years for the victims of a muslim terrorist attack and Diana, princess of Wales, respectively.

I think they would need to blast solid rock with detonators and dynamite eventually but Engineering people would know with certainty.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2014 at 12:32am

Corinth Canal, Greece 

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2014 at 12:29am

I am confused Napoleon. What is it you object to about the memorial? What is it about the "Scandinavian bastards" that you find so offensive and that you want to shoot? 

I can understand objection to foreigners coming into a country, especially with the economic condition of Europe. I don't understand why Breivik chose his retaliation against the people and places. Was it all symbolic for him? 

The cut in the island seems like a symbolic design, I just can't imagine it being done by helicopter. Also, the video shows a very formidable rock face while the pictures look like it was a relatively small task. To advise shooting the ones giving the approval seems out of proportion to me.

Disagreeing with government is not unusual, all of Europe has been in wars for centuries over who rules and how. Shooting leaders is one option ... which carries with it the chaos that comes from one person or group making the decision about who to kill. From what I read in history, that is a good way to create more chaos and more fascism.

Do you really think the problem's solution is for the Norwegians to create a dusty old memorial to the unfortunate dead?  

Explain what the problem is, and what the goal is. 

Problem: Breivik didn't want third world immigration into his country. 

Goal: Breivik wanted to get revenge on the leaders. 

Plan: Breivik planned to kill many people 

Action: Bombed and shot people. 

Evaluation: Did Breivik solve his problem: Yes? No? Maybe? 

Problem: Brevik created a new problem, how to memorialize all those dead?

Goal: Create a memorial in a natural setting 

Plan: Dig the canal, (looks like the Corinth Canal in Greece, which means it is doable). 

Action: Dig the canal 

Evaluation: does it memorialize those who died? 

This is an oversimplified version of the situation, but I am a simple person. Can you clarify for me what you like and don't like about it?

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 6, 2014 at 11:56pm

A very moving thought. I can't imagine how they will accomplish the task by helicopter; slicing a huge section of the island's landmass away, creating a steep fjord through the site where the shooting occurred, sounds like a huge task, but symbolic of "a wound or a cut within nature itself."

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