The final designs for London’s first AIDS memorial have been revealed

It’s been 43 years since the first AIDS death in London and the UK, which marked the start of a global epidemic where approximately 40 million people lost their lives. So it’s about time London got a permanent memorial for the illness. 

London will get a sculpture of a ‘Tree of life’ to remember the people in the capital who died from AIDS. Designed by British artist Anya Gallaccio, the ‘giant symbol of life’ will stand on South Crescent, Store Street, in Fitzrovia.

The Turner Prize-nominated artist was chosen to create the memorial from a shortlist of five artists. Her design appears as a series of tree rings, with two structures flush with the ground and one upright. The rings of the symbolic tree trunk have been extracted and will be placed on a street lined by real trees. 

Here’s an image of the design concept. 

Render of the Aids Memorial London
Image: Anya Gallaccio and Rinehart Herbst

‘The proposal as it stands is holding space with the intention of providing a meeting place, a heart for community generated events and oral histories. The tree is a symbol of life,’ said Gallaccio. 

‘The planes that line the street side of the crescent are everywhere in the city, for good reason… they withstand pollution. They are survivors, living, despite their environment, a clunky but perhaps fitting metaphor for those living with HIV and AIDS. Hidden in plain sight.’

Curator Michael Morris, who was on the selection panel, said the ‘expression of loss and resilience could not be clearer’.

‘The horizontal trunk and the vertical rings that watch over it powerfully and poignantly merge to memorialise the AIDS crisis, creating a living place of remembrance both for the communities most directly affected by HIV and for all Londoners,’ he added.

The sculpture will be close to the former Middlesex Hospital where the first UK ward dedicated to the treatment of HIV and AIDS was created. The Broderip Ward, which opened in 1987, was where Princess Diana famously shook hands with patients. 

Now a largely treatable disease, around 39 million people currently live with HIV around the world. Ash Kotak, founder of AIDS Memory UK, said the memorial should remind people to continue to fundraise for HIV and AIDS ‘as we fight to its end’.

The memorial will be revealed in 2027. 

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