City nails new Halifax Explosion memorial

Video tour: No boring plaques among Needham park 100th anniversary additions.

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Designer John deWolf at Fort Needham Memorial Park. - NOAH WIDMEYER
  • Noah Widmeyer
  • Designer John deWolf at Fort Needham Memorial Park.
When Haligonians gather December 6 at Fort Needham Memorial Park to remember the blast that devastated the city 100 years ago, they will find some informative architecture has been added to the grounds around the old bell tower monument. The new commemorative elements don’t take the form of strenuous plaques droning on about the Imo, the Mont Blanc and the snow storm that exacerbated the damage, but instead feature brief, thoughtful designs. This is memorial as graceful public art.

Among the recent HX 100 installations are a staircase that reads “Richmond’—the name of the community the explosion destroyed—when you’re facing up it from the bottom, and Vince Coleman’s last Morse code message cut into corten steel (reminiscent of a ship’s hull). Details are intricately placed throughout the park, a nice alternative to a tribute bench. Although there are some new benches, complete with hidden facts related to the explosion itself.

The HRM invested $2.7 million to revitalize the site, hiring Ekistics Planning & Design to develop the look. John deWolf, a designer and Halifax native who has worked on signage projects for Disney, Chicago Park District, Yale University and Parks Canada, was part of the creative team. In this video he gives a guided tour of some of Needham’s changes.

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