National memorials that strive for more than the blandly heroic tend to inflame Americans, and the first national AIDS memorial, set to grace a 12-acre grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is no exception. Big-name designers scoured 200 proposals before tapping one by New York architects Chloe Town and Jenette Kim that, so says Town,evokes a ravage-and-regrowth metaphor, using charred boards and carbon rods. But the true blaze roars among HIVers and critics. With the sponsoring National AIDS Memorial board reconvening June 8 for “further discussion,” POZ searched for higher meaning. 

Chloe Town, memorial designer: “The experience of walking through the poles and natural regrowth make it a living memorial.”

Paul Graham, San Francisco resident: “This is definitely a poor choice. It doesn’t reflect the figures and faces that the virus has killed. ”

Mark Jarombek, MIT architecture professor: “The design abstracts a human biological problem. It could be about anything. Maybe it’s even an evasion of AIDS.”

Thom Weyland, HIVer/memorial board member: “We need to get on the national radar. Yes, it’s scary and controversial. AIDS is controversial.”  —Lucile Scott