Confrontation of a Forgotten Reality

1915 was a year of much political and global turmoil. It represented the first full year of fighting in World War I, and the beginning of a changing international geopolitical climate. However, beyond the raging war, it marked the beginning of a covert, systematic genocide of the Armenian people by the Turkish government. 

For decades, there had been growing resentment between the Turkish government and Armenians living in Turkey, mainly due to religious differences. The majority Muslim Ottoman Empire saw the Christian Armenians as a threat to their society, culture, and way of life. During World War 1, however, the Turks, who had entered the war in support of Germany, began to argue that the Armenians were traitors. If the Allied forces won, and they supported them, the Armenians could potentially gain their independence from Ottoman rule. The Armenian people did aid the Allies, mainly by organizing volunteer battalions to help the Russian army fight against the Turks. This support provided enough justification to the government to instigate the extermination of Armenians from war zones. The government facilitated the barbaric arrests, murders, tortures, and displacement of Armenians. After the Ottoman surrender in 1918, the genocide ceased. However, 3 years of irreversible damage had been done. An estimated 1.5 million people had died, and many more forcibly displaced ( Armenian Genocide). 

To this day, the Armenian Genocide is known as the “forgotten genocide”. The Turkish government continues to deny the sheer existence of a genocide; they attempt to rationalize their actions by claiming the Armenians were an enemy force and the slaughters were necessary casualties during an unstable time of war. It was only in 2010 that the United States finally voted to recognize these events as a genocide. Many people remain unaware of the Armenian genocide and its calamitous effects. Thus, memorials of the Armenian Genocide are constructed in a massive, abstract fashion to quantify the colossal scale of its impacts.



The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex, consists of a 44-meter stele, a circle structure that contains an "eternal flame", and a 100-meter wall. The circle structure is comprised of 12 slabs, which represent the lost provinces in Turkey. The eternal flame commemorates the 1.5 million people killed during the Genocide, and the 100 meter wall is engraved with the names of the villages that were destroyed in the Genocide. A towering 75 foot tall structure, comprised of eight arches, the Montbello Genocide Memorial stands out among the rest of its surroundings in metropolitan Los Angeles. The structure is inscribed with a dedication to the Armenian victims of the Genocide.

Both of these memorials are marked by enormous, towering structures, that contrast their surrounding environments. This design element was calculated, as it highlights the vast amounts of deaths in the Genocide. Moreover, their massive presence is intended to constantly grab the attention of visitors, so as to never allow them to forget about the Genocide's existence. This is further exemplified by the eternal flame in the Memorial Complex, which emphasizes the need to always remember the events that occured in 1915, and their lasting impacts.


The Armenian Heritage Park, located in Boston, MA consists of 2 parts: a grass labyrinth, and an onyx abstract sculpture, sitting on a reflective pool. The sculpture, in the shape of a dodecahedron, has many different configurations when viewed from different perspectives. This is representative of the dispersion and union of Armenian immigrants around the world, as a result of the Genocide. The park is intended to both honor the 1.5 million lives lost during the Genocide, and celebrate the cultural and economic contributions of Armenian immigrants.  

The deep black color of the sculpture, the simplicity of colors of the entire park, and the size of the sculpture are deliberate. They set a somber mood, which further highlights the severity of the Genocide. Even visitors with little familiarity of the event would understand that this was a grave occurrence that had crippling impacts on an entire ethnicity. 

These memorials were constructed in such a fashion to express the devastating effects of an often neglected mass genocide. Often, such an intense focus on scale can dehumanize the event, as it eliminates the individual experience. However, design elements such as the inscription of impacted names and villages on the walls, have a personal effect, and provoke empathy for individual victims. 

The continued neglect of such a catastrophe can prevent people from understanding how such events arise, and potentially preventing a similar genocide. The memorials of the Armenian Genocide strive to raise awareness of its cataclysmal impacts. Every structural or design choice in these memorials was implemented with one purpose: to confront spectators with a neglected reality.


Works Cited: 

“Armenian Genocide.”, A&E Television Networks, 1 Oct. 2010.