Statement on Sean Collier memorial

The proposed Sean Collier memorial on the MIT campus.
The proposed Sean Collier memorial on the MIT campus.Courtesy of Höweler + Yoon Architecture

Text by Professor J. Meejin Yoon

The memorial design translates the ideals of “Collier Strong” into a structure that embodies both strength and connectedness. Inspired by the gesture of an Open Hand, the memorial consists of five radial walls which meet at a center. The central intersection of walls is then hollowed out to create a space of unity as oppose to separation—creating in its void a space for remembrance.

Located at the gateway to North Court, the memorial structure and landscape transforms this site of tragedy into a site of reflection. An interconnected and intimate landscape of rocks and trees creates a space for contemplation shielded from the activities of Vassar Street and the campus. Constructed of solid granite blocks which act as buttresses-- the five walls converge to support a “keystone” which unifies the whole structure-- a timeless building method which exemplifies strength and unity.


The concave geometry of the central void provides a space of pause under the vaulted ceiling. Inscribed under the vault and into the stone are the words: “In the line of duty, Sean Collier April 18, 2013.” A second inscription carved into the most intimate garden wall facing the site where Sean’s life was taken reads from his brother’s eulogy “Live long like he would. Big smiles, big heart, big service, all love.”

The open hand metaphor for the memorial resonates on multiple levels. It symbolizes generosity and service. It evokes “mind and hand”. It represents an extension of ourselves and principles-- we choose an open hand over a closed fist. The permanent Collier Memorial will offer our community the opportunity to remember the life of Sean and honor his service, and remind us of our values: openness in the face of threat, unity through diversity, and strength through community.


Design: Professor J. Meejin Yoon


Architect: Höweler + Yoon Architecture

Structural Engineer: Knippers Helbig- Advanced Engineering

Masonry Consultant: Ochsendorf DeJong and Block Consulting Engineers

Landscape Architect: Richard Burck Associates

Civil Engineer: Nitsch Engineering