Mémorial ACTe : a futuristic architecture to remember the past

The Memorial ACTe (Photo: Marie-France Grugeaux)

Originally planned near the Pôle Caraïbes Airport in Les Abymes, the Mémorial ACTe which had a too large area, finally was erected at the site of Darboussier, the former sugar factory, in Pointe-à-Pitre where hundreds of Guadeloupeans worked in times past.

In 2007, the architectural competition launched by the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, was won by the BMC office. So, the designers were inspired by a ruined vinegar factory whose walls are covered with roots of a fig tree to draw the plan of this building. The construction of the Mémorial ACTe began late in 2012 for a delivery in March, 2015. This is a black box built in granite enclosed in the aluminium roots of a fig tree. The black façade of this “box” is a tribute to the victims of slave trade and slavery ; the constellation in quartz symbolizes the memory of millions of captives who died, in particular at sea. With 11-m-high concrete walls, poured in one go in compliance with earthquake-resistant standards, the building is very impressive.


This desire to build upwards continues with the construction of a long footbridge suspended ten meters above the ground which links the building to the “Morne Mémoire Darboussier” converted into a panoramic garden.

In total, the Mémorial ACTe is 7,800 square metres. Nearly 2,500 square metres are dedicated to permanent exhibitions and temporary exhibitions. The area “Permanent exhibitions” describes the history of slavery from antiquity to today into 39 modules called “islands” clasified in six historical periods or “archipelagos” : archipelago 1 is devoted to the Americas ; Archipelago 2 deals with slavery and the slave trade ; Archipelago 3 looks into life during slavery ; Archipelago 4 presents the time of the Abolition of slavery ; Archipel 5 examines the post-abolition period and segregation ; Archipelago 6 is dedicated to slavery, today.

The visitors can explore each island with an audio guide in four languages (French, Creole, English and Spanish).

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The rest of the surface is occupied by a genealogical research center to know about the history and origin of the surnames given to former slaves in Guadeloupe and the Caribbean ; a media library with books and documents on slave trade, slavery and contemporary art ; a conference and living arts space with 256 seats ; two restaurants, (one of them is gastronomic) ; a store ; a vast square embellished with a palm grove dedicated to open-air events ; a site overlooking the sea for visitors who arrive by boat.

To see properly the “Caribbean Centre of Expressions and Memory of the Transatlantic Slave trade and Slavery”, it takes almost three hours. At nightfall, the silvery roots of Mémorial ACTe are lit up. This lighting helps to make the building even more dynamic and attractive for local people and tourists.