Our design for a Memorial for the Victims of the Brumadinho Dam catastrophe in Minas Gerais, Brazil together in partnership with Rizoma Arquitetura Brazil was awarded finalist (2nd prize) in an invited competition. Our concept envisions a modern, non-confessional, cathedral-like building in red concrete. The carefully-considered edifice juxtaposes the context of a lush forest, next to the directly impacted village of Córrego do Feijão, thus creating a dialectic relationship between the forest and the color of the local earth that buried 272 victims on January 25th, 2019. The muddy red-brown water spilling from the breaking dam destroyed everything in its path. Mud piled up as high as 27 meters, and even after a year from the accident not all of the 272 victim’s bodies have been recovered. It was the biggest dam catastrophe in Brazil’s history.

The building is organized in a linear procession of carefully considered spatial interludes which lead visitors from arrival at the street to the area overlooking the dam and the mud-field. Each space is separated by a courtyard and connected by a sensorial gallery that also serves as exhibition space. The spatial experience becomes more dramatic as one approaches the mud-field. Similar to ancient or prehistoric sites and monuments, the memorial relies on archaic astronomic phenomena and a curated use of light and shadow, to conceive a unique experience in remembrance of the victims. The procession of spaces gradually prepares the visitors for an introspective experience, one of quiet reverence, to honor and remember the victims. 

The Memorial for the Victims of the Brumadinho Dam catastrophe is a unique building, an unexpected expressive and iconic construction in a very remote area. Its composition of discreetly curated spaces and its high architectural quality signals the importance of keeping the memory of the victims of this disaster alive.

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