Memorable memorials

Memorable memorials

Great leaders all over the world have been memorialised in various ways.

Rachel Au-Yong takes a look at some of the more controversial monuments, and the lessons they may hold for the committee in charge of conceptualising the Founders' Memorial for Singapore.

1.Park Chung Hee

WHO IS HE? The South Korean president has been compared to Mr Lee Kuan Yew for his successful economic policies in the 1960s. He led the country until his assassination in 1979, at the age of 61.

WHAT'S THE MEMORIAL? A memorial hall was opened in 2012, but not without vocal opposition and more than a decade of delay.

The project was launched in 1999 but halted in 2005 by the liberal Roh Moo Hyun administration. After a long legal battle, construction was restarted in 2009.

Proponents said the memorial would boost awareness of Mr Park's "economic miracle" that characterised his presidency, but opponents thought the facility idolised an "iron-fisted dictator".

After it was opened, some civic groups complained that the association in charge of the memorial had violated its contract by filling the memorial's library only with books on Mr Park.

2. Martin Luther King Jr

WHO IS HE? The leader of the African-American civil rights movement, Dr King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, aged 39.

WHAT'S THE MEMORIAL? Pretty much every aspect of Dr King's monument in Washington DC, unveiled in 2011, drew some form of criticism.

Some wondered why Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was hired, instead of an African-American artist.

Human rights activists also took issue with the fact that Lei had previously created a sculpture of Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who was criticised for suppressing free speech and his enemies.

And despite promises that local stonemasons would be hired, it appeared that only Chinese labourers worked on the memorial.

Granite from China was also used, leading to accusations that the contract was awarded based on financial considerations, given that the Chinese government had pledged a $25 million donation to help fund the monument.

Many also slammed the depiction of Dr King in the 9m-tall statue, arms crossed, as being "too stern" and having a "socialist realist" style more commonly associated with art forms in communist countries.

To make matters worse, etched in granite alongside the statue was a quote from Dr King that drew ire because of the way it was paraphrased.

3. Diana, Princess of Wales

WHO IS SHE? The first wife of Prince Charles, who is the heir apparent to the British throne. She died in a car crash in Paris on Aug 31, 1997. She was 36.

WHAT'S THE MEMORIAL? The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, London, opened in 2004 to numerous complaints almost immediately.

First, there was the issue of cost. Some wondered if the monument, which cost £3.6 million (S$11.3 million at 2004 rates), was an appropriate use of money to remember a princess loved for being down-to-earth and accessible.

There was also criticism that calling the Mobius strip-like pond of water a fountain was a misnomer.

The fountain was open to members of the public, who could wade in the water. But this decision was the cause of three hospitalisations, as some people slipped and broke their ankles.

Leaves from nearby trees fell into the water, making it unsafe to walk in and unsightly, and the fountain was closed temporarily.

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