The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute have joined to organize a competition titled Memorials for the Future. The competition calls for interdisciplinary teams to propose a temporary memorial set somewhere in Washington D.C. that’s “adaptive, ephemeral, virtual, event-focused, or interactive.” The initial application period is April 11 – May 4, 2016; three winners will be selected on May 30th by a jury that includes Marcel Acosta, Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission, Jonathan Marvel of Marvel Architects, and other notable architects and D.C. officials. The three winners will receive $15,000 to help develop their proposals over two phases that will culminate in an exhibition.
With the September opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which occupies the last major piece of real estate on the National Mall, the competition for temporary, flexible monuments couldn’t be more timely. However, it’s not just about D.C.’s packed landscape. David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, told the Architect’s Newspaper that “I actually think the temporal aspect to me is exciting.” The winning proposals (if realized) could “also start to travel, reach different communities, spread the word.” Jessica Lax, Associate Director of competitions at Van Alen, added “It allows commemorative work within a shorter timeframe, decreased cost, and increased accessibility to who can memorialize.”
Along with the monument’s mobility, the organizers are seeking a more adaptable approach to commemoration itself. “How can [the memorial] be adaptable to different narratives?” asked Lax. “As times goes on, opinions change, how can we allow commemorations from different perspectives?
The competition cites works like teamLab’s Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order or Nele Azevedo’s Minimum Monument as examples of unconventional ways to memorialize. Partially or fully virtual projects are encouraged: “We always look for architects to participate,” says van der Leer, “but these days it’s always in a context of collaboration with other disciplines. We’re curious to see what of submissions we get, what type of disciplines participate.” At least one designer (e.g. architect, planner, urban planner) must be present on each team.