Collier Memorial

Cambridge, MA
Public space
6,435 sf
AIA Religious Art and Architecture Award, 2019. Finalist, Harleston Parker Medal, BSA, 2017. AAP American Architecture Prize, 2016. Winner, BSA Honor Award, 2015.
Credit List:
Höweler + Yoon Architecture, J. Meejin Yoon, Eric Höweler, Yoonhee Choe, Paul Cattaneo
Structural Engineer:
Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
Specialty Masonry:
Ochsendorf DeJong and Block Consulting Engineers
Stone Fabricator:
Quarra Stone Company

Situated on MIT’s campus in honor of Officer Sean Collier who was shot and killed on April 18th 2013, the Collier Memorial marks the site of tragedy with a timeless structure—translating the phrase "Collier Strong" into a space of remembrance through a form that embodies the concept of strength through unity. The memorial is composed of thirty-two blocks of granite that form a five-way stone vault. Each block supports the other to create a covered space for reflection. The Collier Memorial evokes a star shape as well as an open hand, referencing MIT’s motto, Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand). 

The ovoid space at the center of the radial walls creates a passage, a marker, and an aperture that reframes the site. The design combines age-old structural techniques for spanning masonry vaults with new digital fabrication and structural computation technologies to create an unprecedented form. 

The structure relies on the exact fit of thirty-two stone blocks to transfer loads in pure compression from stone to stone. This didactic visualization of forces is consistent with MIT's ethos of openness and transparency, while the idea that all five walls are needed to achieve a stable form is symbolic of a community coalescing to commemorate a loss. The Memorial offers the opportunity to remember Officer Sean Collier and honor his life, service, and represent shared values: openness in the face of threat, unity through diversity, and strength through community.