Roll Out

OLIN receives design approval for D.C. Desert Storm memorial

The new design for the Desert Storm memorial was revealed earlier in December, 2019, and curves swooping walls around a central water feature. (Courtesy OLIN)

Plans are well underway to build a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in Washington, D.C., now that OLIN has taken over as lead designer. On November 21, 2019, the memorial’s design concept won approval from the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), a milestone that helped push the memorial closer to the goal of completion by the end of 2021, as basic items such as the layout and structure were determined. The design approval from the CFA on January 17 of this year, but the National Capital Planning Commission still needs to review and approve both preliminary and final plans before construction can begin.

Early efforts are owed to Indianapolis-based CSO Architects, who since 2012, dedicated much of their time (pro bono) in developing design concepts for the memorial. “If it wasn’t for CSO’s participation, this wouldn’t be where it is right now and in fact, it wouldn’t have even got off the ground,” Scott Stump, president and CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association (NDSWMA), told the Indianapolis Business Journal

Since 2010, the NDSWMA has secured a site for the monument, received concept approval, and raised almost a quarter of the $40 million needed before construction could begin. Stump is responsible for the idea of the memorial, wanting to preserve the memory and military significance of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations so it wouldn’t be perceived as a “footnote in history.” 

An aerial diagram depicting a park

An aerial diagram of the future memorial’s proposed location. (Courtesy OLIN/CSO Architects)

It was the American Institute of Architects that recommended some “veteran-friendly” firms to Stump when he realized he was lacking in the visual representation needed to get the project moving. CSO had done numerous projects for military clients and principal Randy Schumacher took lead on the project. Landscape architecture firm Context Design has also contributed to the original design.

Schumacher worked alongside Stump to develop ideas and also solicited feedback from veterans. The result was a design that featured a curved wall ranging in height from six to sixteen feet meant to suggest the “left hook” military maneuver. Once the site was secured (a location just north of the Lincoln Memorial and west of the Vietnam War Memorial) adjustments needed to be made to the design. The new design has lower walls that meld into the ground and includes a central water feature, which symbolizes a desert oasis as well as the international coalition that participated in the operations. 

With OLIN’s work on the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Ohio (which also features a similar swirling site plan), the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, and the grounds of the Washington Monument, they seem like a natural pick to take over as lead designer. CSO and Context still remain involved and Schumacher is honored to play a part in the project, saying, “It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do, as an architect and as an American.” 

A few elements in the design are still awaiting approval and the push to raise the 110 percent of the funding required by law to begin construction is an ongoing fundraising effort. The association’s goal is to complete the fundraising by March.

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