A sacred place dedicated to the memory of the Brumadinho dam-break victims


"The pain will never go away, but it can be re-signified." This phrase opens the video presenting the project designed by architect Gustavo Penna: the Brumadinho Memorial. Paying tribute to the victims of the tragic breach of the tailings dam at the Córrego do Feijão mine in January 2019 at Brumadinho in Minas Gerais State, this is followed by other phrases expressing the sincerity of the feelings permeating this task. We put our minds, bodies and souls into this project," he says, believing that this initiative pushes back against the "wiping out of time and history."

The idea for this Memorial came from the Association of Relatives of Victims and Others Affected by the Breach of the Córrego do Feijão Mine Tailings Dam (AVABRUM). It selected the location for this project: five hectares of land swamped by a wave of mud leaving destruction in its wake. It was also this Association that selected the design by Gustavo Penna, which was submitted with three other proposals in March this year." He managed to translate our pain. He captured the magnitude of the crime and what the people we lost mean to us. Not the Memorial nor anything else in the world will bring back what has been lost, but we want to honour these lives," said AVABRUM president Josiane Melo when announcing the choice, who lost her pregnant sister in this tragedy.

The day he presented his design to the victims' relatives is graven in the memory of Gustavo Penna." It was the most important experience I have ever had in my career as an architect," he affirmed to the O Tempo newspaper in Minas Gerais State. Comparing it to other major projects in his career, such as the Congonhas Museum honouring sculptor Aleijadinho, he stresses that there is a penitent aspect to this Memorial: "I am dealing with something that happened in my time, and with pain that shaped what I am. This kind of challenge is not usual in architecture."

The project

Covering 1,220 square metres of roofed area, this Memorial will be a place for reflection, acceptance and community gatherings. It will be framed by 272 yellow pouis, which will be planted in tribute to the memory of each of the victims. This tree was selected as a symbol of surmounting this tragedy because "In summer, its leaves offer shade; in winter, the leaves fall and allow the sunlight to shine through; during times of drought, it flowers to show that life continues, despite everything."

An entrance pavilion is planned, together with get-together areas and the Memorial Space, with information on the victims and projections of images. The entire roofed area will be underground, explored through a corridor 230 meters long, leading to the Monument to the Dead Victims. Standing vertically, this square sculpture is covered by a sheet of water running into a pool.

In order to design this Memorial, Gustavo Penna explains that it was vital for him to talk to many relatives and friends of the victims, as well as other people directly involved in the suffering of this community, including Minas Gerais State Fire Department spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Aihara. At the time of this disaster, it was he who responded with the utmost humanity to the concerns of an entire country focused on the search for survivors." I was also helped greatly by [Brazilian Zen Buddhist] Monja Coen," he added.

When selecting this design, AVABRUM was supported by technical advice from architect and urban planner Jurema de Sousa Machado, a former president of the National Artistic and Historical Heritage Institute (IPHAN) and museologist Marcelo Mattos Araújo, a former president of the Brazilian Museums Institute (IBRAM).

In charge of the tailings dam operations (and responsible for its collapse), mining giant Vale acquired the land and will underwrite the costs of this project. With work scheduled to begin by September, the completion of this Memorial is planned within eighteen months." The victims need a place where their memories will be revered. This is a commitment to these losses," explains Penna.

The video of this project is available at: https://vimeo.com/424867140



Institutional Partners

Institutional Support

Partnership on Paper and Design Works

Media Partner

Travel Agency



Executive Secretariat