Irish Natural Stone
Photo: Alan Strakey
Photo: Alan Strakey

Irish Hunger Memorial, New York

“The experience of the place suddenly doubles in significance: both trauma and hope, departure and arrival, exile and rescue”

The New Yorker

Location: Battery Park City, New York

Designers: Brian Tolle | 1100 Architects (New York) | Gail Wittwer-Laird

Irish Blue Limestone: Flamed finish

Visionary artist Brian Tolle's Irish Hunger Memorial offers a contemplative space amid the fever of downtown Manhattan, replicating an Irish cottage setting during the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852. The winner of an architectural competition to design the memorial, Tolle collaborated with both Juergen Riehm and David Piscuskas of 1100 Architects, and renowned landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, to bring his concept  to life. His commemorative work depicts an Irish hillside, featuring indigenous Irish vegetation, fallow potato furrows, stone walls and an abandoned famine-era cottage, transported from the village of Attymass, Co. Mayo and reconstructed stone by stone on site in New York.

Fittingly, Irish Blue Limestone was elected as the primary material for the plaza and the plinth on which the monument is elevated. Strips of limestone cladding with its characteristic fossils, chosen from Kilkenny Limestone's Old Leighlin quarry by Irish Natural Stone comprise the entrance passageway. These are intermittently illuminated with glass bands inscribed with information about the Irish famine and the ongoing problem of Third World famine worldwide. The passageway tunnels upwards to reveal the desolate ruins of the cottage on its impoverished plot of land, “culminating in a hilltop with sweeping views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.”