The Mindelunden site in Ryvangen holds an important place in Danish WWII history, but until now, there has been no memorial for the two thousand Danish sailors that died in merchant ships serving the Allies or the more than eight hundred Danes that took part in the Operation Overlord, the invasion of the Normandy. Most of those sailors were not trained in military service, but were pulled from their daily lives at sea and thrust directly into the active conflict between Allied and Axis forces.
To honour those uncertain men who bravely defended freedom and humanity, a new monument is to be erected at Mindelunden. The current grave yard is bound on one side by dense bushes and trees. The new memorial helps to frame that yard by providing a symmetrical boundary. Its proportions mimic the proportion of the low tombs, but the new memorial is larger, a response to the common grave of all sailors, the sea.
The walls of this silent monolith hover still above a pool of water. The profile and texture of the concrete exterior will patina, helping to embed the monument as a timeless addition to Mindelunden. Two axes cut through the enclosed space, one oriented North-South, an important direction for maritime navigation; the other directly connecting Copenhagen and Normandy, where many sailors lost their lives during ‘Operation Overlord’.
The narrow path restricts access to the interior of the memorial, where the interior walls dematerialize. The shimmery aluminium diffusely reflects guests and obscures the horizon. Beneath the water’s surface, lie other pathways, broken and shattered. Like the tides, the water rises and falls steadily but imperceptibly, allowing access to those new paths, once hidden beneath the surface. Engraved on each are fragments of the oral history; the voices of sailors whose lives were determined by their actions at sea. As gradually as they appear, they will vanish again, reclaimed by tides.
Normally, the monument is a space of solitude, but on the day of remembrance, the water changes character, turning from a barrier element to the interface of connection. When visitors place flowers and candles on the water’s surface as a sign of respect, they float in under the walls and inside the forbidding space, turning it into symbol of hope and confidence in the future.