Between the steel and glass skyscrapers of the financial district and the Hudson River is an oddly rural sight: a fallow potato field and the ruins of a 19th-century cottage.
A winding path is lined with blackthorn, foxglove, and ling heather, marked with 32 rocks each engraved with the name of an Irish county. The quarter-acre of Ireland on the edge of Manhattan is a memorial to the over one million Irish who died during the Great Famine of the 1840s, as well as those who continue to suffer from hunger.
Designed by artist Brian Tolle, the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park incorporates a Famine-era stone cottage brought over from County Mayo, Ireland, and reconstructed as the heart of the monument. Visitors can enter directly from the street up a path through the suspended field, or through a tunnel lined with granite and words behind glass remembering worldwide hunger crises, while a ghostly recording plays voices recounting famine.
Room has been left for more words to mark new hunger crises. From the top of the field at 25 feet in the air, there is a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the first stop for many of the over two million Irish immigrants to the United States.
No explanatory text can be found at the Irish Hunger Memorial. Instead, visitors are left to create their own narrative, deciphering meaning in the unexpectedly tranquil and solemn space.
Update September 2016: The memorial is currently under construction for waterproofing.
- Architectural Record: Project Portfolio: http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/portfolio/archives/0307Hunger-2.asp
- New York: Irish Hunger Memorial: http://nymag.com/listings/attraction/irish_hunger_memorial/
- Gothamist: Irish Hunger Memorial In Battery Park City: http://gothamist.com/2011/03/17/video_irish_hunger_memorial_in_batt.php