Architect Selim Vural, a Brooklyn resident who grew up in Istanbul blocks away from the Saudi Consulate, was shaken by the disappearance of a journalist in his native neighborhood. After 3 days of following the global news, and distressed as each gruesome detail emerged, he began to sketch.
His thoughts and drawings evolved into a homage to his fellow immigrant. Having designed two prior memorials; one for Arab Spring’s fruit seller hero, the other for liberal protesters of the Gezi Movement in Istanbul, Vural put his team to work on a larger project: a world-traveling Khashoggi memorial that departs from and arrives at the White House area. Vural says “Architecture has always been connected to death and social upheaval, yet this one is special. The butchering of a journalist inside a major consulate, the consulate being wired to the door knob by spying Turks, the clumsy and grisly murder, the videos of fake Khashoggi’s exit that ends in a kebab house, all of this is surreal.” Vural says there is one more factor that makes this an anomaly: the reaction of a US president having business ties with the murderer.
“Our project addresses not only the criminal acts of the president but also the lack of closure of Khashoggi’s death due to his missing body. The idea of a hybrid funeral/memorial arose from this duality” Vural says.
The project aims to bring serenity, calm and closure to the violence and secrecy of the act. There are fragmented planters in light-weight concrete, accepting flowers and objects of mourning. Shiny red metal plates on grass derived from the pattern of the keffiyeh, the traditional Arabian head gear, scatter near the central piece; the coffin.
This central piece is another planter but in glossy black marble. Vural says “Although all planters can be interpreted as coffins of possibly other tortured journalists, this one is special, this is for Jamal, this is for his family, for his immortality, and has a sense of permanence.”
Vural says “I admire journalists: they’re intellectuals, they’re detectives, they are heroes with pens. There’s a saying in the Middle East: The pen is sharper than the sword. This is what our project is about.”
Jamal Khashoggi, R.I.P. October 13th 1958 – October 2nd 2018