The Port Commission is seeking feedback on three tentative designs for the proposed Mariner’s Memorial.
Wrangell’s Mariner’s Memorial has been in the works for years. And now, those plans are coming to fruition.
Earlier this year, the Port Commission tasked consultant Chris Mertl of Juneau-based Corvus Design to put ideas onto paper.
Mertl returned with three design concepts. He says they have a number of similarities, but the differences lie in movement and space.
“They all have the same elements within them. They all have a pavilion; they have a memorial wall; they have benches and landscaping. How they interact with the walls and the water and how people interact with the water is the difference in the three different concepts,” says Mertl.
Port Commission chair Brennan Eagle says all of the concepts are strong. That’s why the commission hopes to hear what the community likes and dislikes.
“I think we have three good proposals before us. I’m just looking for public feedback. Look at them, see how we can mix and match these proposals together, see what the most important parts of these proposals are,” says Eagle.
Each design creates a different experience for visitors.
Design number one is an active space. It features a waterfront boardwalk that runs along the length of the memorial. That walk extends from the recreation area by the Heritage Harbor parking lot out to the breakwater:
“And then the idea is as you move along this waterfront walkway, along the walkway is the memorial. You would stop and go in through the pavilion and get access to the memorial. The idea is having it surrounded by landscaping creates a sense of enclosure and scale. Then it actually has people turn around and orient themselves to the water,” says Mertl.
Mertl says the first design doesn’t have many private places. It has a walk in the park type of feel. It’s more celebratory, rather than serene and contemplative.
Now, concept number three is basically its opposite. It’s a sacred space. It’s designed to be quieter, more private:
Visitors would enter through the pavilion. Instead of it being the center of the space, it becomes the entryway—the gate that brings people from the outside into this special place. Visitors would then walk through a grove of trees that Mertl says would be a humbling experience.
“And then they emerge into this sacred space that’s surrounded by landscaping and you don’t even realize it’s there. It’s all about the sequence of moving through the site and through these different rooms, and the grand finale is reaching this sacred space that allows people to spend time to reflect and to mourn,” says Mertl.
Each design has a memorial wall with the names of lost mariners.
“By having the memorial walls right on the edge of the water, it allows people to actually look at the wall, see the water behind it and make that connection. So, not only is it a physical, but it’s also a spiritual and a visual connection—something that the other two concepts don’t do,” says Mertl.
That brings us to concept number two. It’s a hybrid of sorts. Concept number two is more open like the first option. However, it incorporates the idea of the journey from the third design:
Visitors access the memorial through an entryway that could have a plaque or dedication. They are guided through the experience by walking among the walls which lead them to the pavilion.
“And by moving through and interacting with these walls, there’s the opportunity also to express the history of Wrangell and the fact that the maritime environment has been around starting off with the Tlingits, then moved on to the Russians, then modern times with running up the river, with logging, commercial fishing, and recreational fishing. So the idea is that not only is it paying homage to those who were lost at sea, but also the cultures and the heritage of Wrangell,” says Mertl.
It has places for quiet contemplation but is open enough for people to feel comfortable with interaction.
Mertl says each design has its own merits. The right design for Wrangell just depends on what the community would like to see.
“They’re all different in how people will utilize them. It’s up to the community to make that determination whether they want something that’s private and sacred space, something that’s open and a celebratory parkland, or a hybrid—something in between,” says Mertl.
Port Commission chair Brennan Eagle says he’s happy the process is moving forward to bring an important memorial to this maritime community.
“We’d like to hear from as many people as to what they really like about these and even what they don’t like about some of these proposals. Then we’re going to come up with a formal set of criteria how to marry these proposals together and come up with a final proposal so that we can entertain having construction documents put together from that work that Chris has done,” says Eagle.
The regular meeting of the Port Commission is this Thursday, April 3, at 7pm in the borough assembly chambers. There will be a special work session starting at 6pm to discuss the memorial plans.
The commission welcomes comments by phone, email, or in person. For more information, contact any of the commissioners or stop by the Harbor master’s office.
You can find Chris Mertl’s illustrations of all three designs posted with this story and on our Facebook page, KSTK FM Public Radio. We encourage you to comment on the designs. Comments will be forwarded to the Port Commission for consideration.