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We typically associate the month of December with festivities, holidays and ringing in the New Year but there is also another, all too important topic that tends to be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and celebration: AIDS. Since its discovery in 1981, AIDS has affected 1.2 million U.S. citizens, 18,000 of which were diagnosed just last year. It is an extremely sensitive and serious issue that has claimed the lives of an estimated 35 million people worldwide since its discovery. And while we, as a society, have taken tremendous strides to combat this terrible affliction, there has yet to be a monument dedicated to those who have lost their lives and dedicated their time to help stop the syndrome in its tracks. Until now.

This year, on December 1, World AIDS Day, the New York City AIDS Memorial was unveiled to the public. The monument is located in the West Village directly across from the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. Its location is no accident, as St. Vincent’s Hospital was the first hospital in the U.S. to open a ward for AIDS patients.

The monument is a result of a contest run by Architectural Record and Architizer to see who could offer a design befitting the magnitude of the issue. Approximately 500 architects from around the world submitted designs, with Studio ai beating out the competition. The memorial’s design features an 18-foot steel canopy and will serve as the gateway to the new St. Vincent’s Hospital Park. World-renowned visual artist, Jenny Holzer, has contributed to the monument as well. Engraved in the monument’s granite pavers is a poem written by Holzer titled “Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself,” which Holzer, in an article from the Art Newspaper, describes as “a beauty from a man in full and glad possession of his body.” The NYC AIDS Memorial also contains a central granite water feature, as well as benches.

In a recent statement, Studio ai commented on the installation’s symbolism and meaning, saying, “there are no definite dates or victims. In our design process, we emphasize the changing and varied ways through which AIDS affects us personally and as a society.”

With so many people having been affected by AIDS, it is great to see such a gorgeous and meaningful symbol dedicated in their honor. If you are interested in donating to the NYC AIDS Memorial, click here. For more information on the structure and its design process, visit the NYC AIDS Memorial webpage.