by Zohra KhanOct 16, 2020
Of late, global events, most notably the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States last year, have highlighted the pervasiveness of discrimination within law enforcement and institutional racism within society. These undesired hindrances to the noble idea of social equality - a vital postulate of modern democracy - are now gradually being acknowledged for their contributions to the unjust hierarchies that have regulated civilisation and its judicial systems. At a time when the issue is now more relevant than ever, Adjaye Associates has unveiled a memorial in Windrush Square, Brixton, commemorating the life of Cherry Groce, a victim of injustice at the hands of the UK police system during the mid-1980s.
The memorial's construction has been facilitated by the Cherry Groce Foundation, which was established in 2014 to provide aid to marginalised Black, African, and Caribbean communities in Britain. "I am honoured to celebrate the unveiling of this project and the representation it brings to the black community for Brixton, London, and the UK at large," says Ghanaian-British architect and the firm's founder, Sir David Adjaye, in an official statement on the pavilion's completion. He adds, "It is my sincere hope that the restorative justice that is borne from the making of this pavilion can help us all learn from and be better neighbours to each other in the city that we live in".
On September 28, 1985, Dorothy Cherry Groce, a 37-year-old mother residing in Brixton, was shot in front of her children by Metropolitan Police officers conducting a raid on her home. This incident sparked the 1985 Brixton riots, which saw confrontations between local law enforcement authorities and residents taking a stand in opposition to perceived injustices resulting from the policing system and its racial prejudice towards Britain's black community. After enduring the strain of paralysis, caused by the shooting, for 26 years, Groce passed away in 2011 from complications due to her injuries. Thirty-five years on, her story remains one of a family and community collectively striving towards a quest for truth and righteousness while refuting the idea that their society is one that condones the injustice done to her.
Within the context of Windrush Square, Brixton - a southern borough of the English capital, the structure acts as a community pavilion for residents to congregate, in addition to its primary function as a reminder of Cherry Groce's perseverance. Structurally engineered by British practice AKT II, the pavilion's single cuboidal column rising from a stepped base symbolises Cherry's unwavering resolve and fortitude alongside the support of her community.
At its apex, a triangular roof provides shade and simultaneously represents the shelter and security of Brixton's local community, while its planting signifies 'change, growth, and optimism', as per the architects. The roofline has the words 'In Loving Memory Of Cherry Groce', engraved on all three faces. Benches integrated into the stepped lower levels are designed for the residents to engage with the memorial's space. The structure's angular design complements similar geometries seen within the landscaped lawns of the area, which includes a memorial to the African and Caribbean soldiers.
"It’s been a long time coming and happy to see all the hard work, dedication and commitment from all involved including donors, come together," says Cherry’s son, Lee Lawrence, regarding the memorial's unveiling. On the pavilion's personal significance to him, he mentions, "It’s a wonderful feeling and an honour to have such a significant memorial embedded in Brixton where we and many other black people called home, as well as the place where we experienced so much of our struggles. So to have this memorial dedicated to my mother Cherry Groce and a community who rose up for the terrible injustice which happened to her and subsequently us is the greatest gift I could give to her in her absence".
Inaugurated on April 25, 2021, the Cherry Groce Memorial Pavilion now stands as an emblem of Groce's struggle and of architecture's ability to aid in healing long standing wounds borne from the evil of institutional racism.
(Text by Jerry Joe Elengical, intern at STIRworld.com)
Name: Cherry Groce Memorial Pavilion
Location: Brixton, London, United Kingdom
Client: Cherry Groce Foundation
Structural Engineer: AKT II