Page last updated at 00:47 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 01:47 UK

Families key to creating memorial

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

Saba Mozakka reading the memorial's plaque
Saba Mozakka was one of the family representatives who helped guide creation of the memorial

A permanent memorial is being unveiled in London's Hyde Park, four years after suicide bombers killed 52 people and injured hundreds more by detonating backpacks loaded with explosives on the city's transport network.

Tall and imposing, the 3.5m (11.5ft) tall stainless steel pillars - or "stelae" - tower above those who wander in between.

There is one for each victim of the bombs that wrought chaos and destruction across central London on 7 July 2005.

The pillars are grouped into four clusters, symbolising the four attack sites - King's Cross, Aldgate and Edgware Road on the Underground and Tavistock Square, where the last of the explosions hit the number 30 bus.

The casting process has ensured that each stelae - while produced from the same mould - has unique characteristics.

Among the names of victims listed on a nearby plaque is that of Behnaz Mozakka, a 47-year-old biomedical officer at Great Ormond Street children's hospital and mother of two, who died aboard a Piccadilly Line Tube train near King's Cross.

Memorial plaque
It's a huge responsibility to deliver something meaningful on behalf of the bereaved families
Architect Andrew Groarke

After seeing the pillars in situ for the first time, her daughter Saba, 28, from Finchley, described it as "a poignant moment... a very important step in terms of our personal grief".

"We haven't had anywhere we can properly pay tribute to those we've lost."

For her, it marked the end of 18 months' work liaising with the design team on behalf of the families.

Saba described the results as "truly incredible", and her reaction was welcomed by the memorial's creators - London-based architects Carmody Groarke.

Two years ago, when Kevin Carmody and Andrew Groarke bid for the contract from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, they offered no designs or even firm ideas.

But their offer of a "process" involving consulting victims' families at every stage of development struck a chord with the relatives.

"It was about them [the architects] listening to the needs of the families," said Ms Mozakka.

As the design team trod the fine line between allowing for public remembrance and private reflection, so they built a strong personal connection with the project.

"It's a huge responsibility to deliver something meaningful on behalf of the bereaved families," said Mr Groarke.

They asked what the relatives wanted, gained their trust and began formulating ideas.

'Pride'

Deciding on location was the first key step.

Initial suggestions that it should be situated in Tavistock Square - where 13 people died aboard the number 30 bus - had already been rejected.

Ms Mozakka said: "It was important to get a location in central London which reflected the enormity of events.

"We wanted something high profile and grand enough to show how important those who died were and we are very proud that it's being created in Hyde Park."

The team looked into the park's history and decided on a site next to Park Lane, where a path once led to a gate before both were removed in the 1970s during road widening.

Nearby grass banking was extended and trees planted to give the site some shelter.

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Relatives of 7/7 victims on the new memorial

As you stroll along Lover's Walk, the stelae reveal themselves in rows - the patterns of the groupings changing as you approach.

Glinting in the sun - or given intriguing surface patterns by rain - they are designed to draw in passers-by, inviting them to discover the significance of the pillars.

Mr Carmody said: "We wanted people to meander through, discovering the memorial's meaning by interacting with it."

Closer inspection reveals only the front, featuring the inscription of the date, time and location of the bombing it represents, to be a "perfect", smooth surface.

Its sides appear mottled and grainy, thanks to an ancient technique using sand moulds employed by Sheffield's Norton Cast Products.

Random swirls adorn the remaining face, created naturally as the hot metal reacted with air during the open-casting process.

"People seem compelled to touch the stainless steel," said Mr Carmody.

The architects' near-obsessive approach led them to have a new typeface created for the inscriptions, described as an evolution of a centuries-old London font which inspired the Underground lettering.

Sensitive

They admit such a sensitive project "required a different level of understanding". For example, relatives became so involved they asked to visit the foundry to view the castings.

Those who worked on the project were mindful of its significance. Martin Bhatia, of Colvin & Moggridge landscape architects, described it as "an honour".

"There's a sense that it could easily have been us who died," he said.

Perhaps inevitably with a public installation, it is not to everyone's liking.

"It's completely meaningless to me," said one bereaved relative, who is not attending the unveiling.

"I understand the concept but I'm just not comfortable with it. I don't feel it will give me a sense of peace."

The woman, who asked for her name to be withheld to avoid offending other victims' relatives, said the steel could not reflect her relative's character.

"I would have preferred a garden... something growing and not static," she said.

However, she admitted the liaison with the families had ensured the process had been fair.

"You can't please all the people, all of the time. Perhaps when I go to see it, I might be more touched."

However, for Ms Mosakka, the 52 individual pillars are a reminder of the characters behind the headlines.

"They will stand tall in memory, as they did in life," she said.



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