On June 3rd, 2008 two children living in a small hamlet overlooking a lush valley in rural Honduras were murdered by four thugs. Jennie Lopez (12) was killed first. Her brother Karlin Adali Valdez (10), a witness to Jennie’s brutal murder, was killed soon after. Their lives were going to be different, before the tragic night when their home was broken into while their parents had briefly stepped out. Their deaths greatly affected the local community. Jennie’s life in particular represented hope. Her love of learning and her infectious enthusiasm promised a bright future. She was a star student at the local parish church, and walked several kilometers to school each day. The community, enraged by one more injustice perpetrated against the Honduran poor, organized protests and demanded justice. To their great surprise, three of the four killers were brought to trial and sentenced to death.
While that sentence can never bring back the children’s lives, the community wants to commemorate the joy that they brought into the lives of so many others. Furthermore, Jennie and Karlin offer exemplary role models to the children of the local community. Their abandoned home will become a memorial called “Jennie’s Place.” This simple house is a place where people can come to meditate, and also serves as a space to conduct meetings or classes. The design is extremely simple, composed of five elements placed within the shell of the original house; the floor, the medallions, two lights, the benches, and the window shutter. The budget is extremely tight, with $2,500 for materials and volunteer labor. The children were murdered in the main room of the house (6.4m x 11.5m). Two gold medallions inscribed with their names will mark the spot where each child was murdered. The disk-shaped medallions are set into a black polished concrete floor. Like two bright stars in the night sky, the medallions are illuminated by two lights suspended from the roof structure. Arranging the hand-hewn benches in various configurations within the room allows the space to serve a range of functions and take on different qualities.
In its simplest configuration, two benches are placed against the long walls on either side of the room. One bench faces outward towards the valley, while the other faces inward towards the mountain. Both benches, however, are focused on the two medallions. For community gatherings the benches are oriented in rows along an axis parallel to the valley. They are thus contained between two cones of light defining the spatial domains of the medallions.
Finally, a single bench can bisect the room north-to-south, creating a distinct space for Jennie and another for Karlin. Because the benches are bi-directional, they force one to focus attention on either child and navigate the relationship between the two medallions. The window shutter in the east wall is seemingly suspended within the frame, leaving the silhouette of a cross levitating in the massive wall of mud, straw, horse hair and stucco. The approach to the room runs through the garden and porch. Ancillary rooms provide a small exhibit space illustrating the children’s lives and their tragic story. A small prayer room / chapel overlooks the valley.