This 27-acre memorial park was a collaboration between Halprin and Satoru Nishita to commemorate the victims of the 1941-43 Nazi massacre of Ukrainian Jews in Kiev, Ukraine. Nishita’s own family had been interned during World War II, and he felt that he understood the passion that drove the project.
The memorial is laid out around a pathway configured as a Star of David, with distinct zones located at three points of the star: an amphitheater, a grove, and a ravine. Each zone is accentuated with a monument. Visitors enter the park via a narrow passage between two inscribed, rough-hewn, black granite monoliths. The edges of the site are managed as a prairie, with native grasses, yucca, and prickly pear.
The park recently underwent a comprehensive restoration by Mundus Bishop landscape architects. The approach was to treat the landscape as the work of a master, requiring repair rather than replacement and improvement. The consultants were intentional in attempting to follow original specifications at every level of design, down the precise color and transparency of the glaze on component parts of the monuments. The results: the landscape reads today as both Halprin and Nishita intended. Perhaps most impressive is that despite the fact that residential and commercial development has gradually encroached upon the area surrounding the park in the decades since its completion, it maintains an open and contemplative feeling that is apt for such an important memorial.
While the restoration of Babi Yar Park has garnered wide and well-deserved recognition, the park’s original designers have not merited the same attention. The restoration was jointly initiated by Denver Parks & Recreation and the Mizel Museum. Both organizations would do well to recognize the unique and personal story woven into the original design for the park.
Heather Collins, AIAP
Collins applies her MFA in Cinematography from Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts to bring concepts of motion picture visual storytelling to her still photography work. Born and raised in Colorado, she works across the country on photography projects ranging from architecture and landscape to fashion and product. Her love of travel and nature makes her gravitate towards working on location. She is based in Los Angeles, California.