i+D - July/August 2019 - 35

Commemoration & Inspiration - By Brian Libby

On Boston Common,
"The Embrace" will feature
a mirrored bronze finish that
makes visitors and passersby
part of the installation,
which honors the work of
Martin Luther King Jr. and
Coretta Scott King.

"I like to say good art asks
questions, and good design answers
them, and the quality of the
questions dictates the quality of the
answers. Hopefully, a good memorial
is a call to action."

(Image: MASS Design Group)

-HANK WILLIS THOMAS, ARTIST

"The Embrace" is a sculpture and installation Thomas created
in partnership with MASS to be installed on Boston Common
(America's first public park) for King Boston, a nonprofit
organization working to celebrate, honor, and advance the work
and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
Its form, the winning design from a year-long artist selection
process, depicts the interlocked arms of the couple,
stretching 22 feet in the air, while also creating a sheltering
space underneath.
"The intention was for them to feel embraced," Thomas says
of visitors moving through and beneath the sculpture. The idea
is that love and fellowship-across barriers of race, culture,
nationality, and class-can itself become a call to action. "I like
to say good art asks questions, and good design answers them,
and the quality of the questions dictates the quality of the
answers," the artist adds. "Hopefully, a good memorial
is a call to action."

including the aforementioned Alabama memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr.
Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. Each project, the artist and the
designer agree, deepened their bonds and collaborative synergy. "We have
to engage that whole palette of our senses to trigger the kind of memory
and intellectual work necessary to fight the kind of injustices and tragedies
memorials commemorate," Murphy explains. "A designer-artist collaboration
is one way to imagine that. The artist is thinking about those sensorial
experiences instead of just the delivery of information." In that way, "The
Embrace" may seem intuitive now that its design is complete. But, its
simple beauty and power never could have come about without that plurality
of voices behind it.
In that way, another Santayana quote comes to mind: that beauty is a
union "between the soul and nature." Designing memorials is about curating
an experiential, emotional journey. When done right, with a blend of design
and artistry, personal conviction and group voice, emotion and restraint,
the destination becomes a kind of sacred ground.

"The Embrace" also is an example of how ongoing
relationships can foster great collaboration. This is the third
project for which Thomas and MASS have collaborated,

BRIAN LIBBY
is a journalist, photographer, and award-winning
fi lmmaker. His articles have appeared in
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,
The Atlantic, and Architectural Digest.

i+D - July/August 2019

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i+D - July/August 2019

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