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Steilneset Memorial, Vardø

Steilneset Memorial, Vardø
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Norway wasn't always known for its peace politics. In the 16th and 17th centuries, 135 "witches" were indicted and 91 were burned (many of them indigenous Sami) in Vardø, the easternmost town of Norway. Today the victims are being memorialized as part of an ongoing $400 million architecture and design development project along Norway's 18 designated National Tourist Routes, which include roadside lookouts and new design hotels. This particular monument—designed by artist Louise Bourgeois and Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor—is a chair enveloped in flames and enclosed in a 125-meter-long building, with a window built for each victim of the witch hunt.

Steilneset Memorial – Peter Zumthor and Louise Bourgeois

By  Photographed by Andrew Meredith

© Andrew Meredith

In memory of those persecuted in the seventeenth-century Finnmark Witchcraft Trials, the Steilneset Memorial rests along the jagged coastline of the Barents Sea in Vardø, . Photographer Andrew Meredith has shared with us his photo series documenting this masterpiece created by a unique collaboration between the world-famous Swiss architect (Basel, 1943) and the influential contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois (Paris, 1911-2010).

 

Zumthor simply describes his collaboration with Bourgeois in an interview with ArtInfo as the following,

I had my idea, I sent it to her, she liked it, and she came up with her idea, reacted to my idea, then I offered to abandon my idea and to do only hers, and she said, ‘No, please stay.’ So, the result is really about two things — there is a line, which is mine, and a dot, which is hers… Louise’s installation is more about the burning and the aggression, and my installation is more about the life and the emotions [of the victims].”

Continue reading to view the photographs and learn more about the Steilneset Memorial.

© Andrew Meredith

Zumthor’s pine scaffolding supports a suspended silk cocoon. Within the cocoon, visitors walk along a 400-foot long oak-floored corridor.

© Andrew Meredith

A hanging light bulb floats behind each of the 91 windows, illuminating them in memory of the 91 individuals who were convicted of sorcery and burnt at the stake. Each window is accompanied by a plaque that reveals the story of each individual.

© Andrew Meredith

Serving as Bourgeois’s last major installation, “The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved” contains an endless flame burning upon a steel chair that lies within a hollow concrete cone.

© Andrew Meredith

Reflections of the flame bounce off of every surface as the chair is surrounded by a series of circular mirrors.

© Andrew Meredith

The installation is housed within a smoky, reflective glass structure that contrasts Zumthor’s long, wooden installation.

© Andrew Meredith

Reference: Andrew Meredith Photography, Nasjonale TuristvegerDezeen

© Andrew Meredith

Andrew Meredith was originally commissioned by Icon Magazine.

We also recommend article on Wallpaper magazine’s website.

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