New Zealand Tomb of the Unknown Warrior

Daniel K. Brown in collaboration with Erika Kruger

This design for the New Zealand TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR was a finalist in the national competition.  It represents a critical evolution from my theoretical design research project The Decameron, translated into a built form.

It is designed as a grove of solemn black posts set within a shallow reflecting pool.  The black posts surrounded by water symbolize the primal New Zealand forest that once defined our sacred shore.  The shadows of these black posts move slowly along the paving surrounding the Tomb, marking Time like a permanent sundial.  Nestled within these symbolic trees is a clearing, a glade, which holds a gilded sphere floating upon the water.  This sphere represents the spirit of the Unknown Warrior.  Simultaneously it becomes our own New Zealand version of the Eternal Flame.

As the sun moves across the sky, we see bright reflections from the sphere flickering through the shadows of the primal forest.  The reflections fade away at twilight only to return again with the dawn. We occasionally hear the sound of soft chiming as the sphere strikes the posts.  The Tomb represents a grove of sacred shadows providing haven for the Light and the soft sounds of Music emanating forever from within.  The lower level of the Memorial contains the Tomb wherein the Unknown Warrior lies.

The black posts extend down through the Tomb, surrounding the warrior and protecting him or her within the glade of trees.  Light enters the Tomb through a tempered glass paver set within the reflecting pool above, reminiscent of light filtering through the tops of trees.  The glass paver is engraved with the words “A New Zealand Warrior – He Toa No Aotearoa”, such that the silhouette of these words falls as soft shadows upon the walls and floor of the Tomb.  The same poignant words are engraved upon the warrior’s tombstone on the floor below.  These engraved words remain unmoving, whilst the transparent silhouette of words from above moves softly across the floor for all time.

As a cultural symbol, the Tomb is proportioned as a square within which a golden sphere is held.  The square is a universal symbol of the earth (the four winds, the four cardinal directions, the four elements, the four seasons).  The circle, with its implicit sense of a sacred centre, is a universal symbol of heaven and the human spirit.  Throughout early Christendom, for example, a circle within a square symbolized the touching of heaven and earth, the meeting of body and spirit.  Visitors to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior need not be explicitly aware of these historic symbols.  When looking upon the circle held within the square, one is touched by its simplicity.  Its purity engenders its poignancy.

Research Assistant: Simon Dearsley
01.Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Panels

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