Memorials can be art that speaks in silence. The silence that is with the absence of words. Successful memorials tend to be malleable. They easily conform to a person's needs and are made to be healing tools by that certain individual. However, memorials do not claim to possess complete healing. But in its mute and silent state; it compels the individual to fill in his own reason for coming.
            As with words, certain truths are imposed on a person that directs the person to think in a particular line of thought. A successful memorial is the opposite. An example is the
Lincoln memorial. You are ushered into the presence of the statue of Abraham Lincoln. The grand statue of a man sitting down doesn't portray anything abstract but a normal human behavior.

The memorial posses no point and therefore emphasizes its clear state. The person in an effort to understand the memorial forms the memorial through his own made-up and inner feelings of Abraham Lincoln. His feelings therefore become the memorial. It is his ability to interpret his feelings as the monument that ultimately creates healing. This is what a successful memorial does.


The silent characteristic, possessed by a memorial is important. People respond to a certain element by responding to the action it produces. But if the element is silent, the individual can then respond to the action, which in this case is silence. How do you respond to the silence? Your thoughts are not geared to understand any meaning or action because there are none. Your thoughts are your own feelings right then. The memorial allows you to think and question, a process that is reflectiveness in it’s own self. Carol Blair, professor of America Studies at the University of California, Davis, states,    “ the most successful monuments evoke a sense of reflectiveness”.


A successful memorial uses it’s presence to help usher a person into a place of healing. By going to a memorial site, its designs and settings can either contrast with the surrounding environment or be in harmony with it. It does so to bring you either back in time to the event or allow you to continue in your own time but view the past. Like the surrounding architecture around the Lincoln Memorial, you are brought into the classical age Abraham Lincoln lived in. An environment created by such a balance in time helps stir you to think what the memorial stands for and why.


Memorials that are silent impose no meaning. They gently allow you to read meaning into it. According to Strickland in his article, “REMEMBERANCE IN BRONZE AND STONE”, he states that “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Lin also doesn’t ask anyone to pass judgment on the war, just as the Lincoln Memorial doesn’t tell you what to think. Therefore, successful memorials themselves lack meaning. They are open so that even in the future, it will have a relevant meaning to future generations. Its cause is therefore not lost because it has none. It therefore lives on because the people live on.


As you view the memorial, you try to figure out what is saying because it does not say anything. By trying to figure out who Abraham Lincoln was, your own thoughts, feelings and emotions are brought out. The final result is a memorial that has been interpreted through the person’s own feelings. The memorial becomes the emotions and feelings of the person. It is then the person can look at his feelings by looking at a memorial, and come to terms with it. A successful memorial causes your feelings to spontaneously come out.


Memorials impose no point or meaning, that is what makes them silent, and because they are silent, you are able to reflect. By reflecting, your true feelings are brought out. This helps in healing process.









World War II Memorial by Friedrich St. Florian


Memorials are surrounded with controversies. Friedrich St. Florian’s World War II memorial is one of such memorials. His design for the memorial is considered as neoclassical and old fashioned. Memorials should be a transition between past and present. The neoclassical design of the World War II Memorial would have been considered okay if it had been built a few years after the war had ended. This is because other buildings had adopted this kind of architecture, and this architecture could be used to help glorify the war. But in this modern age, the concern is not a memorial that fed-off the pride of victory of good over evil, but a memorial remembering war time America. The view of a memorial in the past would have been one that showed triumph over the enemy. But the view today has changed, since we have matured and come to understand the consequences of the war. Therefore, a successful memorial would take into account the need to honor the past but also do it using modern, conventional ways to meaningfully remember conflict (Dodd 1-3).


“But memorials are a dialogue between past and present. They have to look forward as well as back to the events they seek to eternalize- otherwise they are not memorials but epitaphs” (Dodd 3).


The imperial grandeur that once represented the triumph of laws over tyrants now feels corporate and anonymous. It resonates with power, but not with the memory of the ordinary citizens who fought in the war.            

(Dodd qtd. In Tolu 3)




World War II Memorial by Friedrich St. Florian








Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Lin


There is an emphasis to create new forms of memorials that are able to inwardly move the individual and not abstract designs. Individuals need to be able to interpret it and read their own meaning into it. Like all successful memorials, they do not impose any emotion on you but allow people’s own thoughts to be the guiding factor of how they feel about tragedy. An example is Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial, which does not ask anyone to pass judgment on the war, just as the Lincoln



Memorial does not give you an impression of who Abraham Lincoln was. Memorials should be architecture as an art that only appeals to the era the memorial eternalizes, but should also appeal to the era it 8s being built. The views of those who witnessed the tragedy are different from the views of those in the era were the memorial is being built. It should, therefore, be an open, clear slate that people can write on (Strickland 1-4).


“The consensus among architects and historians surveyed is that effective memorials embody this reticence, stimulating the viewer’s own thoughts” (Strickland 2).




Architecture can help us cope with tragedy. There’s an architecture of reassurance and an architecture of provocation. In this case of a tragedy like this, we want architecture to reassure us, to define who we are and our place in this moment. (Robert qtd. In Strickland 1).







Lincoln Memorial






 Lincoln Memorial Image: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MUSEUM/Armory/galleryB/french.jpg


Vietnam Veterans Memorial Image:



World War II Memorial Images:




Dodd, Matthew. “Remembrance Days.” New Statesman.

July 29, 2002.


Strickland, Carol. “Remembering in Bronze and Stone.” Christian Science Monitor

November 23, 2001.