The New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee has unanimously approved the proposal for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial, which will be located on the exterior of the Brown Building in Manhattan's Greenwich Village where the fire took place. One of the deadliest industrial disasters in American history, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 led to the death of 146 garment workers, many of whom were immigrant women.
The memorial is the result of a campaign launched by the nonprofit Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition in 2011. Designers Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo were named winners of a 2013 design competition, and in 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state of New York would contribute $1.5 million toward the construction of the memorial. However, the group still needs to raise $1.2 million for the long-term maintenance of the memorial. If they succeed, fabrication will take about six months.
Inspired by mourning ribbons that are placed on structures to show public grief, Wegman and Joon Yoo devised a matte stainless steel "ribbon" that stretches across the front and up the corner of the building as well as a parallel reflective black Stoneglass panel at street level, according to a project proposal. Names of the victims and first-person accounts of the event will be etched into the paneling, and will reflect up onto the underside of the steel ribbon. Next month, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition and the Fashion Institute of Technology will host a community event for individuals to donate fabric pieces that will be sown together into a 300-foot ribbon. Wegman and Joon Yoo will use the resulting patchwork as a cast mold for a portion of the steel memorial ribbon.
"Looking downward to the Reflective Panel, then looking upward ... is part of the innate language of New York, and echoes the witnessing of the fire itself: looking up, looking down," Wegman and Joon Yoo wrote in a letter to the commission.
The Triangle Shirtwaist fire led to social reforms related to acceptable working conditions and public safety as well as standards relating to fire safety and building codes. Soon after the tragedy, New York established the Bureau of Fire Prevention.
If all goes according to plan, Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition expects to have the memorial installed by March 2020.