Plaza of Anthems

Plaza of Anthems
Concept and Design: Katya Bobrova, Ben Anderson
Site Proposal: Jubilee Gardens London

As a spatial geographical landscape, the Plaza of Nations merges cultural and political divisions separating the nation states of the world. Re-establishing the world as a united entity, the design concept for the Plaza of Nations is to physically and visually construct a spatial representation for the national songs and music of countries from around the globe into a single plateau. As nations have been defined either by natural geographies such as rivers, mountains and seas or by human-made borders defying natural conditions and cultural and political divisions in dividing one country from the other, the Plaza of Nations re-forms these separations into an interconnected site. As such, the plaza is created as a ‘walk-on world’, shaped without borders, yet inscribed with the lyrics of the national anthems of all nations.

The plaza invites the public to walk over an interconnected topography of sandstone paving blocks each inscribed with the words of a country’s national anthem. Seating emerges from the plaza creating a series of topographies where visitors can sit and hear through speakers installed under the seating each country’s anthem. Visitors can either follow a country’s national anthem as it oscillates around the plaza at a steady walking pace or remain seated to hear a continuous looping of each anthem as it passes. Not unlike the tectonic plate that showed the world as a single landmass before splitting to create the world’s continents, the plateau allows for a spatial representation of the world; a walk-on world, shaped without borders, yet inscribed with the lyrics of the national anthems of all nations.
The layout of the plaza is determined by the positioning of each country in relation to its global position. To determine each nation’s position, the world map is flattened and placed over a plateau measuring 38 x 18 metres. Arranged in a grid formation referencing latitude and longitude increments, each nation is represented equally by a 1 x 1 metre sandstone block. Dedicated as the ‘site of inscription’, each national anthem is inscribed into the block in the presiding official language of the country along with any other official languages, as well as English.
All of the current 192 internationally recognized sovereign states are represented in the Plaza of Nations. In addition, the 10 States with limited international recognition, often blocked by the non-recognition of another State, are equally represented, for example: Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan, Taiwan by China and State of Palestine by Israel. The geography of the plaza is also formulated by recognizing the diverse and interwoven history that languages have played throughout time.
To differentiate between nations, each anthem is distinguishable by its own font, amounting to the use of 202 fonts. The sandstone blocks are joined at a 1:20 gradient creating an undulating topography forming a ‘foundation stone’ reflecting a ‘world geography’ and mirroring the United Nations Charter. Interspersed seating surrounds and emerges from within the plaza, allowing for the public to sit and hear recorded anthems through an audio system embedded in the seating. Conversely, at a steady walking pace, visitors can follow each country’s national anthem as it oscillates around the plaza.