Designing the National Pulse Memorial & Museum

When the Pulse Nightclub tragedy happened two years ago, the Orlando community came together in many ways, showing a united front in the face of terror and hate. Since then, the Pulse site has been a place where people could mourn and leave behind tokens of love and support for the 49 people who lost their lives.

With the opening of an interim memorial at the Pulse site on May 8, the experience is completely new. Owner Barbara Poma launched the interim memorial through the onePULSE Foundation to provide the public with a space to remember and reflect while a permanent memorial and museum is being designed. The atmosphere of inclusion that Pulse was known for is still felt at the site.

“It was just always our mission to make sure that, even though it was a nightclub, that we took care of each other,” Poma says. “That everyone was accepted and welcome there.”

Visitors can leave flowers or mementos at the offering wall; view the waterfall entrance, a portion of the building with the names of the 49 angels and the area where the bathroom rescue occurred; leave a message at the Pulse Nightclub sign; and take some time for reflection in the green space of Survivor Grove.  

A Memorial, Created

Throughout the design process, Poma has worked closely with staff members from memorials around the country, including the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. She considers them a support system for everyone at the foundation as they have navigated the process.

  “I have no preconceptions of what it will look like,” Poma says of the permanent memorial and museum for Pulse. “I just hope that it feels like a healing place. I hope that it feels like a place of hope and remembrance, a place of education, a place of strength, really, and that it encompasses all the unity that our community and the world showed us.”

Last fall, 2,200 people took an online survey to share their thoughts and ideas for the Pulse memorial site. One survey question inquired, “How do you want to feel when you come to the memorial?”

Love, Hope, Unity, Strength

Individuals were asked to choose five words and emotions from a list that was provided. They responded in four groups: families, survivors, first responders and the general public. Among all four groups, the top words were love, hope, unity, strength, acceptance and courage. The same question was posed during preparations for the Oklahoma City and 9/11 memorials, and the chosen words were loss, solemn, remembrance and grief.

While Poma didn’t expect to see such uplifting selections, she says, “I think, for me, it was just completely symbolic of who Orlando is.”

In addition to designing, constructing and maintaining a permanent national memorial and museum, the onePULSE Foundation will also offer endowed scholarships in memory of each victim according to their dreams and aspirations. Educational programs to promote amity, or friendship, among all segments of the community are part of the foundation’s mission as well.

Update – June 11, 2019
Source: onePULSE Foundation
On May 30, six architect-led design teams were announced as finalists in an international competition to design the National Pulse Memorial & Museum. These teams will advance to the second and final stage of the competition where they will propose a concept design that will honor the 49 people who were killed in the tragedy and also support their families, survivors and first responders.

The six teams are:

-Coldefy & Associés with RDAI, Xavier Veilhan, dUCKS scéno, Agence TER, Prof. Laila Farah
-Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rene Gonzalez Architects with Raymond Jungles, Inc.
-heneghan peng architects, Gustafson Porter + Bowman, Sven Anderson & Pentagram
-MASS Design Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Sasaki, Sanford Biggers, Richard Blanco, Porsha Olayiwola
-MVRDV, Grant Associates, GSM Project and Studio Drift
-Studio Libeskind with Claude Cormier + Associés, Thinc, and Jenny Holzer

The six firms and their teams will meet with onePULSE leadership, a victim liaison and a survivor while they develop their designs. This month, they attended a site tour and informational meeting in Orlando, and in July there will be an interim review of each team’s work to ensure their ideas align with those of onePULSE Foundation and the Pulse community.

A public exhibition of the submissions will take place in early October 2019 at the Orange County Regional History Center. This will be accompanied by a digital exhibition of the proposals on the onePULSE design competition website. The public will have an opportunity to share their comments.

Each design will be evaluated for its overall design excellence, inventiveness, creativity and inspiration as well as responsiveness to the considerable community feedback onePULSE has already collected and, most importantly, sensitivity to the concerns of the project stakeholders – the victim’s families, survivors, first responders and all those affected by the tragedy.

The winning design team will be selected by a blue-ribbon Jury comprised of onePULSE stakeholders, civic decision-makers, global thought leaders and world-renowned architects.


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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