See the Winning Memorial Design Honoring 49 Victims of Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting
A 'Terrorist Attack'
In the aftermath of the June 12, 2016, shooting at the nightclub she opened in memory of an older brother, John, who was lost to AIDS, Pulse co-founder and onePulse Foundation CEO Barbara Poma said she imagined a memorial to "honor the 49 lives taken and all those affected while also educating visitors and future generations on the profound impact the tragedy had on Orlando, the U.S. and the world."
At the time, it was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and it remains the deadliest modern-day attack on the LGBTQ community.
"It was a terrorist attack," Poma told PEOPLE on the third anniversary. "It happened to a community that was already disenfranchised."
“Every tragedy has its own story, and we at Pulse have to tell our own story,” Poma, pictured at right, told PEOPLE.
Amid an epidemic of mass shootings acrosss the country, “the loss of our 49 does not diminish or replace the loss of every other life lost,” she said.
“Schools should be safe, and churches should be safe, and marathons should be safe. We should all be safe. But for the LGBT community, they’ve had to do this forever; they had to find safe spaces forever. That’s why this attack is different.”
A Permanent Tribute
As makeshift memorials grew and were maintained outside of the shuttered nightclub for the past three years, the nonprofit onePulse Foundation launched an international design competition for a permanent memorial on the site.
Drawing 68 submissions from 19 countries, the competition was whittled to six design team finalists whose prior projects included the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in London.
'Haven of Peace'
The winning design team, led by Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and Orlando-based HHCP Architects, features an abundance of outdoor promenades, plazas, a reflecting pool and vertical gardens emanating from the nightclub building, pictured in the foreground at right, and toward a spiraling museum and educational center.
“In this haven of peace and tranquility, we discover the transformed nightclub, opening to the light and air, inviting us to traverse an intimate path; opening our consciousness,” the design team wrote.
Also envisioned is the connecting Orlando Health Survivors Walk, tracing the three-block journey many victims and first responders took to reach the nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center on the night of the tragedy.
'In Memory of the Angels'
Incorporating the Pulse building, the design team's proposal features a reflecting pool that will encircle it, with water as a connecting element. "In memory of the Angels, a palette of 49 colors lines the basin and radiates toward the public spaces," the team wrote. "An opulent garden planted with 49 trees, the memorial site provides a protective and colorful canopy."
'Calms the Soul'
"This design is one that I personally fell in love with," the mother of one of the people killed in the attack wrote in a comment submitted during the design's public review period.
"It gives me peaceful memories ... The water running calms the soul. The opening beam of light shining towards the heavens confirms to me that our Angels are watching over us."
A 'Starting Point'
As part of its plan, the design team imagines a spiraling, open-air museum and educational center located a short, tree-lined walk away from the Pulse site with vertical gardens, public plazas and a rooftop promenade.
The nonprofit foundation is seeking to raise $50 million to build the memorial and museum, which it hopes to open in June 2022, although it says the winning design is not final but rather "a starting point" for conversations over the next year to further refine the master plan for the memorial.
'A Signal to the World'
Inside the open-air museum and educational center, right. "The museum has a lightness in design, but captures what the Pulse museum should be: a place to educate and bring a message of hope to the world," the father of a Pulse victim wrote in a comment submitted during the design review period.
"It will show that Love will forever win. The protruding light up to the sky sends a signal to the world inviting them to come see what Pulse represented."