British architecture organization Architects for Social Housing (ASH) has published an alternative take on the Grenfell Tower memorial proposed by architecture studio JAA earlier this month. While JAA's proposal covered the shell of the burned-out building in slabs of black concrete, ASH's vision covers JAA's design with the names of public and private officials ostensibly responsible for the disaster.
JAA's design was put forward by the architects as a conceptual exercise that had no backing from the government. As the architects said in Dezeen, the intent for such a design was to give enduring visibility to the tragedy and to encapsulate the event in public memory so that its lessons would not be forgotten. Reactions were mixed; one minister of parliament scorned it as "misery porn."
The ASH proposal taps into public outrage surrounding the event. In its aftermath, many of those affected and others across the U.K. accused the local authorities and Prime Minister Theresa May of being insufficiently concerned about the wellbeing of the residents of public housing projects like Grenfell. A public inquiry into the causes of the 2017 disaster, in which 71 people died, started this summer, but no one has been held responsible.
Three teams are in the running to design a memorial honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary Schoolshooting in 2012. The top groups are set to present their concepts to the memorial commission on Tuesday, July 17 in Newtown, Connecticut.The chosen teams, representing various cities and firms throughout the U.S., were selected out of 189 international submissions due last December and were narrowed down from 13 shortlisted designs in May. The project is the result of a five-year-long development by the memorial commission which was established in late 2013. Per the submission guidelines, entrants were asked to envision a public memorial that stretched across five acres of donated land located a quarter of a mile from the elementary school. Designers were challenged to consider the existing site’s rural setting and to maximize the use of its woods, wetlands, and ponds as well as to include native plants suited to the region and microclimate. In addition, entrants were asked to incorporate the “sacred soil” of incinerated items such as stuffed animals and flowers that were left as temporary memorials throughout the town following the shooting.
Up until this summer, all submitted designs were kept anonymous as the family members, public and memorial commission reviewed them privately. Now that the design teams have been made public, each group will present updated iterations of their initial proposals below at Tuesday's meeting. The Clearing was designed by Berkeley-based designers Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck. It features an encircling landscape of winding pathways and trails that wrap through a flowery woodland. At the center is a young Sycamore tree planted inside a fountain with the names of the 26 victims of the shooting engraved around the stone edge. According to the team, the design symbolizes that the healing process does not end, but rather continues to grow and bring people closer together.The inspiration behind the Sandy Hook Memorial Garden revolves around 26 gardens and miniature fountains, each dedicated to the individual lives lost that day. A 36-inch-tall stone wall will be erected at the edge of the site and will include four separate dedications to the town of Sandy Hook, the first responders, the surviving teachers, and classmates as well as the American community who offered loved and support after the shooting. The concept was created by Justin Arleo of Arleo Design Studio LLC from Tempe, Arizona.Let the Earth Hold Us + Heal Us features six experiential elements including an open green space dubbed the Breathing Field, a Memorial Grove, a Reflection Pool as well as a Belonging Bench and Community Arbor. The project was conceived by Joan MacLeod of Damon Farber Landscape Architects, Teri Kwant of RSP Architects, and Julia McFadden of Svigals + Partners, who worked on the design for the new elementary school. Once the memorial commission reviews the designs above, the chosen proposal will go before the Newtown Board of Selectman. A final decision will be announced in August.
Absence is not abstract. It is felt and perceived. Absence implicates all of us inasmuch as it confounds the very writing of our stories. To see absence is to have our limits revealed, not as if in a mirror, but in a manner that shows that we are entangled with distant tethers that keep our bodies, our histories, in check. Absence, when made visible, is not observed immediately. It takes time.
The April 26 opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, is perhaps one such catalyst for the effacement of the visitor with respect to the racial terror that led to the loss of thousands of lives through lynching. Lynching victims who were burned alive, hanged, shot—murdered—in and along the towns and byways of our nation from 1877 until 1950, are documented in this memorial initiated by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Such violence continues today in the form of excessive imprisonment; by the murders of black women and men by the police; by the enforcement of state-sanctioned economic violence. By crafting spaces in which the subtractive is both a tool and a frame, the design of this memorial signals the recuperative agency of building as a means to affect the erasable and irascible conditions that established and purvey hatred, fear, and ignorance in this country. Here, looking away is not conscionable, as it moves against the habitus of memory, where our own individual pasts intersect with the Past.
That the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum are realized in this, the 50th anniversary of the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, is indeed an extraordinary feat indebted to the efforts of many individuals that came before. However, I would be remiss in not reminding readers that in recent reportage, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone, there is scant mention of the architects. During the spectacle of the opening ceremony, EJI’s Executive Director, Bryan Stevenson, acknowledged builders, contractors, laborers, and “local” architects—but did not name the project architects, MASS Design Group. Only on the EJI website can we find mention that the Initiative had the “assistance” of MASS Design Group. It feels purposeful, and we are thus left to speculate. I am left wondering: Are architects supposed to fade away in the fashioning of a memorial? I can think of recent examples for which this is clearly not the case. What has been wrought in other locations, including Washington, D.C., Berlin, Johannesburg, New York City, and Birmingham, all speak through their authors. And, in varying degrees, formal aspects of each of these memorial spaces are present now in Montgomery.
Memorials render ghosts. And Boston-based MASS Design’s work with the EJI on the design and building of this structure is no less haunted by the iniquities of American history. With distant views of limpid hills and a semiformal state capitol town center with its empty shops, deserted lots, 59 Confederate markers, and recent loft conversions, the Memorial for Peace and Justice is adjacent, without irony, to the storefront of the State of Alabama Office of Pardons and Paroles Day Reporting Center. From the street below, the memorial structure is partially indiscernible due to its horizontal profile cutting across the sightline, but it may also be read as an empty pedestal through and on which the lives of so many passed, passed away, disappeared.
One climbs farther up the hill alongside a boundary wall upon which a series of chronological narratives is posted to convey the story of “Why here?” and “Why now?” The manifestations of slavery, of incipient racism that persist today, are described as a backdrop to an unfolding of both landscape and architecture as marked sites for unceasing brutality. We are soon confronted by a bronze sculpture of humans in chains by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. The signs begin too high to be read easily and meet our eyes as we climb the hill. A sharp corner, and one rises again to the structure while unfortunately overlooking the conclusion of the memorial space one floor below. There is no fixed entrance, per se, except a momentary pause with a large fire extinguisher. Stepping onto a timber floor, one is immediately surrounded by a dense array of body-size steel casks hung from pipes that disappear into a paneled metal ceiling. One moves cautiously through a grid of “bleeding” Corten steel containers, each incised with the name of the county and names accompanied by dates, including those unknown, of the lynched. The floor gradually descends as the casks remain above our heads; their intact volumes remain whole.
By moving downward, one returns into the ground. The horizon has been excised. Gravity is idle. A series of narratives printed on thin metal strips is hung in a similar manner to the initial chronologies, describing in the briefest of ways the events of individual lynchings. The blunt quotidian language, their facticity, arrests our movements. At the next corner, one is presented with two very large indictments. A cascade of water pushes across the adjacent wall, merging with, not obscuring, an extended text. The temperature changes. Two choices are apparent: Climb a ramp or stair into the center of the quadrangle or leave. The empty center, while perhaps disguised as a space of confrontation, is more like a cloister in which condemnation is subdued, internalized; here it is possible to see across through the casks while observing others. It is not a sanctum. Greeting one’s unceremonial departure from the memorial upon moving outside, another sliver of text is located across from the pipes and pumps of the interior waterfall. This is not as much a “door of no return,” as merely a way out.
This non-exit merges with an unmarked landscape of horizontal metal casks, akin to those held inside the structure—a topology of loss. Despite being worrisome for those who might wish to touch one of the steel containers after a hot day, one walks between their seemingly geographic order(s) locating states and counties, and names. Farther on, a series of bronzes by Dana King, depicting Rosa Parks and her heroic companions leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott, intersects the path. A small circular garden of mushroom-like concrete stools is sited nearby and is unlike anything seen elsewhere, with no explanation as to its role. One moves across on pathways above, around, and below another bronze, this one by Hank Willis Thomas, spelling bodies of containment, of stability falling away.
With the building of such thresholds for historical reckoning, the arc of our knowing also asserts unknowing; absence lingers. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum attest to our own entanglements with reconciliation and truth. Memorials, like museums, are structures that attempt to keep us in their grasp as long as possible, allowing for the disclosure of our interior selves with multiple worlds. Such “new worlds” are partially uncovered at the intersection of reflection and remembrance, yet allow for and point to the rupture of what our passages have been and continue to be.
On April 26, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the first memorial in the U.S. dedicated to African American victims of lynching and continued discrimination, will open to the public in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial, designed by Boston-based MASS Design Group, will open in tandem alongside The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, also located in Montgomery, which will chart the history of African American segregation from slavery to the present day.
Both projects stem from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit group that works to right racial injustices, advocates for those in racially or economically segregated communities, and provides legal representation for the illegally arrested or abused.
The memorial itself, located in the middle of six acres of hilltop in Montgomery, is a square-shaped, open-air pavilion dedicated to the more than 4,400 victims of lynching in America. Their names are inscribed across over 800 six-foot-tall, rectangular columns wrapped in Corten steel and hung from the ceiling of the memorial. Each of the columns represents a county where the lynchings listed took place, and replicas of each are located outside of the pavilion for their respective counties to come and claim; the columns left behind are meant to be a public reminder of which county has failed to engage with the memorial.
Visitors just outside of the pavilion’s entrance will be confronted by a sculpture from Ghanian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo of a mother in chains, crying out while cradling a baby under her arm. A sculpture by Dana King dedicated to the women who kept the Montgomery Bus Boycott alive will also be located near the “town square” memorial.
“Our nation’s history of racial injustice casts a shadow across the American landscape,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”
The Legacy Museum is only a 15-minute walk from the memorial, and the two-story, 11,000-square-foot brick building sits on a site that had historically been used to warehouse slaves. Inside, the museum will use videos, photography, and research materials to introduce visitors to first-hand accounts of the domestic slave trade. From there, sculptures from Titus Kaphar and Sanford Biggers, among other mixed-media works and photographs, will paint a portrait of life under enforced segregation in the Jim Crow South. Through a range of mediums including animation and paintings, the museum hopes to create a full timeline of racial segregation in America.
According to the EJI, design and artistic partners for the museum also include Local Projects, Tim Lewis and TALA, Molly Crabapple, Orchid Création, Stink Studios, Human Pictures, HBO, and Google.
The April 26 opening ceremony will be followed by several days of panels, presentations, and concerts at the museum.
The Orlando, Florida city council has unanimously approved a permanent memorial to the victims of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.
The just-approved labyrinthine memorial builds on a design in Colonialtown Square Park that was already in-progress at the time of the massacre. Forty-nine pavers, one for each of the victims, will coalesce around a shattered heart that shares a rainbow color palette with the #OrlandoUnited symbol. Plans on file with the city list local firm KZF Design (also known as KMF Architects) as the architect.
Installation will be complete by next week, and the city plans to hold a dedication on December 20.
In October, city officials approved benches, a fence, and new landscaping on Pulse's property, the first step towards another permanent commemoration. Pulse owner Barbara Poma's onePULSE Foundation is behind that project.
What is going on with Washington, D.C.'s World War I Memorial?
On November 9, the World War I Centennial Commission hosted a symbolic groundbreaking for the WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, a public square designed by M. Paul Friedberg just blocks from the White House. The groundbreaking last week, a day ahead of Veteran's Day (observed), was purely ceremonial, as the project hasn't gotten the requisite approvals or permitting.
Some say that the WWI Centennial Commission, the government group in charge of the memorial's construction, is now looking to place the memorial at the National Mall, but the Commission maintains that there are no plans to relocate the memorial at this time.
It was just in July of this year that D.C.'s planning board, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), voted in favor of adding a memorial to Pershing Park, and allowing the memorial to move forward from its concept stage to design development. The vote allowed the WWI Centennial Commission and the National Park Service to work with the winning design team to refine the memorial. (At press time, the NCPC could not be reached for comment on the memorial plans.)
The winning design for the WWI Memorial, selected in January 2016 after a two-phase competition, is titled The Weight of Sacrifice, and was submitted by GWWO Architects, New York sculptor Sabin Howard, and Chicago architect Joseph Weishaar. Their proposal would replace an onsite kiosk and cut a path through Friedberg's concrete pool, a defining feature of the 1.8-acre park.
While many in landscape architecture and preservation circles acknowledge the importance of a WWI memorial, they believe the memorial design will alter Pershing Park beyond recognition. In a letter to the NCPC, Friedberg called the memorial's defining feature "a persistent and intrusive one note wall that’s being forced into the space, thus obliterating the scale and meaning of the original design.” The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts had told the WWI Commission in March of this year to come up with a design that wouldn't overshadow the original late modern landscape.
For his part, the director of the WWI Memorial Foundation would like a memorial on the National Mall, not Pershing Park.
"We're 100 percent for the National Mall," said David DeJonge, president and co-founder of the WWI Memorial Foundation. The park, he said, is a half-hour walk from the other war memorials on the mall, and the park's landmark protections would make it hard for the memorial to be realized in the way stakeholders desire.
At the ceremonial groundbreaking last week, Dejonge toldCurbed DC that the WWI Centennial Commission had nixed Pershing as the site for the memorial. However, the WWI Commission's Colonel Tom Moe said Pershing is still under consideration as a memorial site. WWI Memorial Foundation Co-Founder and Centennial Commission Vice-Chair Edwin Fountain added that the group hopes the memorial will remain in the park.
The WWI Centennial Commission echoed Colonel Moe's statement. "No. We are not moving the memorial. That is an erroneous blog post," said Chris Isleib, director of public affairs at the WWI Centennial Commission, referring to the Curbed piece.
To support his statement, Isleib emailed a resolution to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) from a March 22, 2017 Centennial Commission meeting that outlined the group's stance on the National Mall location: "We would obviously like to consider the option of being on the National Mall, but Congress ultimately decides the issue of the memorial's location. ... Congress authorized the memorial for Pershing Park." At the meeting, the 12-member commission voted to consider the National Mall—if the option becomes available.
However, shortly before the November 9 groundbreaking last week, according to DeJonge, the WWI Commission again discussed moving the memorial to the National Mall. Isleib at first declined to comment on the encounter, then followed up to say he did not know if any conversation had taken place.
DeJonge is hoping to leverage federal law to site the memorial on the National Mall. The former Main Navy and Munitions Building, which sits over Constitution Gardens, was home base for WWI planning headquarters, and given the connection between WWI and the Mall, DeJonge believes a section of the Antiquities Act of 1906 could be leveraged to build the memorial. Among other provisions, the law allows presidents to create national monuments on federal property. To that end, his group is petitioning President Donald J. Trump to authorize the building of the memorial on the National Mall, which is overseen by the National Parks Service. (He outlined the Foundation's plans in a press release last week.)
As of now, the memorial is the early stages of design development, and it hasn't gotten final approvals from two key agencies, the NCPC or the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Nor have any building permits been issued. Any D.C. memorial must comply with the Commemorative Works Act, a federal law that guides the construction of monuments on the National Mall and other areas, and gain approvals from the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC). Whatever site is selected, the WWI memorial still faces a stringent and lengthy approvals process moving forward.
In light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and other cities across the nation, a panel discussion on Civil War Monuments has been planned in Cooper Union’s renowned Great Hall, on the subject of their meaning, the complex histories that surround their realization, and the current socio-political conditions that are causing their very existence to be reconsidered. Should these monuments be saved? Should they be torn down? Is it possible—or even appropriate—to make thoughtful, informed interventions into these works of public art that can preserve their history, diffuse the myth and polarization that surround them and serve as teaching moments for future generations? These and other questions will be posed during the program.
Stony Brook University Professor Michele H. Bogart, whose teaching areas include the social history of public art and urban design and commercial culture in the United States;
Executive Director of the American Historical Association James Grossman whose work has focused on various aspects of American urban history, African American history, the place of history in public culture, and more;
Julian LaVerdiere, a 1993 graduate of The Cooper Union School of Art and co-creator of the Tribute in Light Memorial;
Visual journalist and former CNN correspondent Brian Palmer, who has photographed Virginia's neglected African American cemeteries and more;
Columbia University Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Mabel O. Wilson, whose design and scholarly research investigates space, politics and cultural memory in black America and race and modern architecture;
Mya Dosch, faculty member of The Cooper Union’s Humanities and Social Sciences who is teaching the fall 2017 course “Take ‘em down: Monuments, Artist Interventions, and the Struggle for Memory in the Americas,” will moderate.
On June 12, 2016, 49 lives were lost on Latinx night at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida when gunman Omar Mateen targeted LGBT club-goers out for a night of dancing. Now, the city and a private foundation are making steps toward honoring them in a public memorial.
This Monday, plans for an interim memorial were approved at Orlando's town hall meeting. The plans are spearheaded by the onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit incorporated by the owners of Pulse to honor the victims of the shooting and provide support to survivors and the families of the deceased. The Foundation has created a fund to support scholarships in each of the victims' names. They are also planning a museum that will showcase the narratives of those affected as well as a permanent memorial for the site.
The temporary memorial is meant to make the site more welcoming while the Foundation develops the permanent memorial. The approved measures include a rainbow-painted crosswalk, illuminated benches, a new fence painted with murals, landscaping features on the otherwise concrete curbside, and areas for reflection and walking around the site, which has been closed off to the public for over a year now.
The City has already completed the crosswalk painting portion of the memorial on Esther Street leading up to the nightclub, much like the rainbow flag being permanently installed today in front of New York's Stonewall National Monument as an homage to early LGBT and HIV/AIDS activists. Both installations have been timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day, held yearly on October 11.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer praised the plan for the temporary memorial, which he said would be "much more friendly ... to the public that are coming there." Since the shooting, the site has attracted visitors from around the world who pay their respects to the souls lost that night, leaving behind flowers, balloons, photographs, advocacy posters, and other personal tributes.
At the Orlando town hall meeting, a panel of experts also discussed the site's eventual fate. One panelist, the vice president of New York's National September 11th Memorial, argued that some or all of the original structure should be kept intact rather than demolished, preserving the survivors' and families' connection to the space where their loved ones experienced their last moments.
At the meeting, an audience member remarked on the lack of diversity of the all-white panel, which she felt was not representative of the community most impacted by the tragic event, which was largely Latinx, Black, and queer. "There were nine black, African-American," the audience member continued. "There were single mothers, low-wage workers … you have to be inclusive.”
While completing work on the Willis Avenue Bridge in East Harlem in the early 2000s, an unexpected discovery was made. A building adjacent to the bridge – a bus depot operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – seemed to have been built on top of a colonial-era African burial ground.
In 2011, the MTA hired a consultant to complete a formal archaeological study (Phase 1A), which found that the depot grounds had indeed been an active burial site from the late 1660s to at least 1856. In 2015, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) completed a Phase 1B archaeological assessment and the depot was shut down, its operations relocated offsite. The nearby Elmendorf Reformed Church – a descendant church of the burial ground – were involved in the extraction of more than 140 bone fragments from the site, which will be preserved and reinterred within a memorial.
As the MTA and NYCEDC discovered, the site had been the cemetery for descendants of Africans in the colonial era when the neighborhood was a Dutch settlement called Nieuw Haarlem. An adjacent cemetery for white parishioners was relocated to the Bronx when its attendant church moved, but the ground holding the Africans' remains was repeatedly resold and developed over, its history obscured and desecrated.
Yesterday New York City Council approved a zoning application giving developers the go-ahead to construct a memorial at the historic burial ground, as well as a mixed-use housing and commercial complex including about 730 residential units, 80 percent of which will be made affordable. Before development begins, additional archaeological work will be conducted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPS), supervised by the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force (HABGTF), which has advocated for the site's formal recognition since 2009.
The development, intended to be about two-thirds residential and one-third commercial, will center itself around the outdoor burial ground memorial and include up to 15,000 square feet of indoor memorial or cultural center space. The memorial itself will be allocated about 18,000 square feet, a wedge-shaped area near First Avenue. The overall site will span the entire city block.
In the HABGTF's original design proposals for the memorial, the names of the deceased are carved into walls of black granite surrounding a reflecting pool with its ripples illuminated onto the ceiling by internal light fixtures. Reverend Doctor Patricia A. Singletary of the Elmendorf Reformed Church managed to find the names in the church's records. The promenade, also etched with quotes from black luminaries like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., can double as a presentation space for guest lectures "pertinent to the site's history and larger issues concerning the legacy of slavery and colonization." The memorial corridor, lined with bronze sculptural reliefs depicting scenes of slavery and Native Americans, extends out onto an open, public lawn dotted with fiber optic lights that illuminate the grasses at night.
The NYCEDC plans to issue an RFP for development proposals for the site in 2018, with the final team selected in late 2018 or early 2019. The site is scheduled for construction on a tentative timeline from 2020 to 2023.
At the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, construction will soon begin on a 93-foot tower to commemorate the 40 lives lost in the hijacked plane that crashed into the countryside on September 11, 2001.
Dubbed The Tower of Voices and designed by Paul Murdoch Architects,the tower will feature 40 wind chimes suspended by corbels (one for each individual lost) cast into a concrete tower. Notably, this will be the first major vertical element in an existing, expansive memorial that is almost entirely flat. The rest of the site, a bowl-like earthwork designed by Paul Murdoch Architects and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects in 2005, is nearly three times the size of Central Park and was designed to encourage contemplation through subtle alterations and restoration of the site's existing landscape – an old growth field and adjacent wetland. Arup is providing engineering and design consulting to simulate a 3D soundscape of the acoustic experience.
The tower will be situated at the end of the memorial's circular path, and serve as the new entrance and exit to the memorial.
Murdoch chose to work with sound, since, in his words, “The last memory that many [family members] have of the people on the plane is through voices on those phone calls,” according to Arup's blog.
Of the four flights hijacked on 9/11, Flight 93 was the only one that did not fly into its target, the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Instead, on learning of the hijackers' plan, the flight crew and passengers struggled to regain control, ending in a premature crash into a field near a reclaimed coal strip mine in Pennsylvania, nearly 150 miles from its intended destination. None survived the impact.
Set to open in 2018, The Tower of Voices' three-dimensional soundscape will be the final element of the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Update 7/18/17: This story has been updated to clarify that there are no axonometric diagrams for the design that was reviewed at the NCPC's last meeting.
The Nation’s Capital came a step closer to gaining a World War I Memorial this month when a key federal panel approved a conceptual design for the project—even though panel members and others expressed concerns about the latest plan and its potential impact on the selected site.
Representatives from the nonprofit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) and a retired high-ranking landscape architect with the National Park Service joined the federal panelists in questioning aspects of the design, which calls for the memorial to be added to a 1981 park by the noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg. Friedberg, via an email message shared with the commission, expressed disappointment with the proposal.
After an hour-long discussion, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted unanimously on July 13 to accept its executive director’s recommendations for adding a memorial to Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.
The vote means the design team and its clients, the World War I Centennial Commission and the National Park Service, can now move to a second, more detailed stage of design work on the project, which is expected to cost $30 million to $32 million.
Sponsors of the memorial are aiming to complete it in time for a late 2018 dedication. The design will have to be reviewed at least two more times before any construction can begin. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts also must give its approval.
Congress authorized the World War I Centennial Commission in 2014 to build a memorial at Pershing Park, a 1.75-acre public space bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue, E Street, and 14th and 15th streets N.W. The park is named after General John J. Pershing, general of the U.S. armies in World War I, and contains a memorial to him.
To select a designer, the World War I commission held an international competition in 2015. The winner was Joseph Weishaar, a graduate of the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture. He called his entry “The Weight of Sacrifice.” Other design team members include New York sculptor Sabin Howard, landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, and GWWO Architects, the architect of record.
The design presented this month (PDF) was a revision of a concept that the planning commission reviewed last November. The revamped design called for retaining more of the existing park than before, and a memorial consisting of three main components. The first is a 65-foot-long bronze bas relief wall on the site’s western edge, featuring images from the war along with a water feature. The park’s pool would be retained, although a path would be added to provide access to the commemorative wall. A flagpole would replace an existing kiosk.
Part of the sensitivity of the project is that Pershing Park is already considered a significant public space, deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the original design by Friedberg, the park reflects a planting plan by the office of Oehme, van Sweden.
For those unfamiliar with park in its prime, the video below from TCLF details its conception and features sweeping views of the then newly-completed project, with commentary from Friedberg:
During the latest review, a key issue was the extent to which the project should be treated as an opportunity to preserve Friedberg’s work, as opposed to treating the site as a blank slate for new construction.
In voting to advance the project beyond the conceptual design stage, the planning commissioners encouraged the memorial’s designers to retain the best features of Friedberg’s design, as much as possible.
Commissioner Evan Cash noted that the nature of the project has evolved because of the desire to respect Friedberg’s work. He questioned whether the sponsors shouldn’t just “go back to the drawing board” and launch another competition.
“What started as a design to put in a World War I Memorial has turned into a restoration project for the original park,” he said.
Commissioner Mina Wright said the design team has a difficult task because it has been charged with adding a major memorial to a key public space while also respecting what’s already there. “This is a really vexing problem, two different … interests that the design team has been asked to resolve,” she said. “It’s serving a lot of masters.”
In public testimony about the design, a representative of TCLF, Margo Barajas, stressed the significance of retaining the best elements of Friedberg’s design, especially the waterfall and pool.
“Pershing’s waterfall and pool are one inseparable landscape feature located in the heart of the park,” she told the panel. “One need only look at earlier images of the park when the waterfall was well maintained, the pool was full, and cascading water provided animation. The park was a popular destination that was embraced by the public. The waterfall’s gushing sounds, the white noise masking the adjacent traffic, and the cooling mists, all absent from the now-proposed WWI Memorial revised concept design, were keys to its success.”
Barajas said the foundation believes the 65-foot-long wall is too long for the location and would be a visual barrier to Pershing Park.
“Collectively, the visual and physical barrier created by the insertion of this wall, backed by a pool with sheets of water running down its shorter northern and southern sides, the corresponding loss of more than 50 feet of open physical and visual access between the upper and lower western plaza levels,” the loss of an extensive tree canopy on the western edge of the pool, and the “the loss of the dynamic, animating qualities of water that are fundamental to the park’s feeling, would result in a less successful urban design,” she warned.
Barajas noted that the WWI Centennial Commission has presented and then rejected a design proposal called the “Upper Wall Design.” She said TCLF believes it is worth revisiting.
“It would retain the existing waterfall and pool and site the 65-foot-long wall along the elevated north-south walk behind the waterfall,” she said. “Depending on the height of the wall and the waterfall, this memorial gesture could be seen from multiple vantage points throughout the park.
Barajas quoted a June 25 email from Friedberg to landscape architect Phoebe Lickwar, which was written after the latest design was shown to the fine arts commission on May 18.
“To say that I was disappointed in the design presented to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on May 18th—the 'Restored Pool Concept'—would be a gross understatement,” Friedberg wrote, characterizing the long wall as a “one note” design move.
Friedberg said in his email message that he was encouraged that members of the World War I Memorial design team met with him to learn about the original design. He said that gave him a “positive feeling” about the project.
“I appreciated that several [Commission of Fine Arts] members suggested we finally meet, and thought that the first meeting with the design team produced a common goal and understanding of how a World War I Memorial could add a layer of content and experience that would enhance both the park and Memorial,” Friedberg wrote.
“It was unfortunate that the World War I Centennial Commission’s vice chair, Edwin Fountain, and the Memorial’s sculptor, Sabin Howard, did not attend,” he said. “Their absence from our discussion may account for the design outcome, the persistent and intrusive one note wall that’s being forced into the space thus obliterating the scale and meaning of the original design."
“I can only assume that the design team was forced by the insistence of the client (the WWI Centennial Commission) to shoe horn in, at all costs, the wall,” Friedberg continued. “The negative impact on the overall design is too much to pay and unnecessary. The rejection of the numerous previous designs by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts should have sent a clear message that forcing a solution with a preconceived result was not working and any preconceived notion would be a burden on creativity. It takes a good client to produce a good design.”
Another speaker from the general public, landscape architect Darwina Neal, retired Chief of Cultural Resources for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service, said she worked on Pershing Park when it was being planned. She said Pershing Park is a “signature designed landscape” by Friedberg, who is considered “one of modern American landscape architecture’s most accomplished urban designers.”
Neal said the World War I commission’s objectives, as stated in its design competition, were to come up with a design that would “enhance the existing Pershing memorial by constructing … appropriate sculptural and other commemorative elements, including landscaping.”
“Although this design is billed as the ‘Restored Pool Concept,’thisis a serious misnomer,” she told the panel. “Rehabilitation would have been a more apropos treatment description, but it does not achieve that either because, in reality, it would not only destroy the existing fountain … as the major focal point within the central room of the park, but it also compromises the pool itself by putting walks across it.”
Neal said she believes it is commendable that the berms enclosing the park would remain intact, but the proposal to remove the existing fountain, change the size and depth of the pool, and cover about 40 percent of its surface with new walks would have “extreme adverse effects” on the integrity of the existing park design, because the existing fountain is the main feature.
Replacing the fountain with a 65-foot-long sculptural wall would also disrupt visual and access continuity between the pool area and the west end of the park. The proposed pool behind the new memorial wall, which features what appear to be side “sheets” of water, would not even be visible from the pool area, let alone heard—and thus would not be a “splashing fountain.”
Neal said she advocates more of a preservation approach and believes rehabilitating the existing park, with minimal changes, could “considerably reduce” construction costs.
“Since the basic well-designed framework of the park still remains, there is no excuse for abandoning the original design,” she said. “Rather, it should be rehabilitated. Demolition by neglect should not be tolerated.”
Neal also urged reconsideration of the “Upper Wall Design” that would locate the commemorative wall along the upper north-south walk behind the fountain.
“This placement would require little change to the existing park features and have no consequences on the experience and function of the park, other than somewhat affecting views from the west that are already limited by existing trees,” she said. “Most important, the focal fountain and pool would be retained in place, with the wall visible above the fountain, as viewed from the pool area.”
Instead of a flagpole, she said, “the existing concession kiosk could be replaced by an interpretive/informational kiosk—perhaps an interactive high-tech one with stations on which users could get information on the war and perhaps even be able to input names of relatives who served in the war and information on them, and/or leave messages/comments, etc. Such a kiosk could increase visitor use, education, and enjoyment.”
Above all, Neal said, she believes “it is crucial to maintain the fountain, which is the heart of the design.” When it was working properly, she said, it “pumped life into the focal pool and plaza area, creating a vibrant public space” along Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I would hope that this vitality could be brought back to life!” she said.
Among the recommendations from the planning commission’s executive director were for the design team to: consider reducing the size of the commemorative wall “to improve views across the park,” consider integrating a water feature into the commemorative wall “consistent with the location and orientation of the existing cascading fountain,” provide additional details regarding pool modifications and what the water-related areas will look like during times of year when they are empty of water, and prepare a “park programming” plan that identifies the proposed urban park spaces and potential activities that can take place there.
Weishaar and John Gregg, associate principal at GWWO, attended the meeting but were not asked to speak to the panel or address concerns about the design. They said after the meeting that they would take the panel’s comments into consideration as they work to refine their designs.
Last year saw one of the biggest and most publicized mueum openings in recent memory: the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). While it obviously made the cut on our list of top new museums and monuments, highlighted below are a few other opened or soon-to-be-open buildings and memorial that honor our country’s history and cultural heritage.
Memorial for slaves that helped build the University of Virginia
A memorial honoring the estimated 5,000 enslaved people who helped build the University of Virginia (UVA) will be built on the university’s grounds. Designed by Boston-based architects Höweler+Yoon, along with Mabel O. Wilson, Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect, and Dr. Frank Dukes, the granite, circular memorial will reference The Rotunda at UVA, which was planned by Thomas Jefferson two centuries ago. “The Memorial is a facet of the University’s commemorative project that involves many people and initiatives, we envision this memorial to embody the ideals of the University which, as Jefferson defined to be, ‘to follow truth wherever it may lead,'” said Meejin Yoon of Höweler+Yoon in a press release.
FXFowle designs new Statue of Liberty Museum
Visitors looking to get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty will soon get a chance to do so when New York–based FXFowle’s new museum opens in 2019. The 26,000-square-foot building is designed to accommodate the rush of tourists from the ferries, which bring over 4.3 million people a year. Inside, the statue’s original torch will be displayed and 15,000 square feet of space will be dedicated to showcasing the monument's history, legacy, and construction details. “The museum’s defining gesture is the lifting of the park itself, extending vistas rather than ending them, and creating a new, naturalized habitat in place of a traditional building,” said FXFowle on its website.
National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, D.C.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), which opened recently in September 2016, is the latest addition to the monumental architecture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The tiered structure, designed by David Adjaye and lead architect Philip Freelon, together with Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, is clad in 3,600 bronze-painted aluminum panels and inspired by Yoruban art from West Africa, a region where many slaves were taken into bondage.
After a decade, the Jackie Robinson Museum finally begins construction
A museum that has been a long time coming (it was originally slated to open in 2009), the Jackie Robinson Museum by Gensler’s New York office will open in 2019. Honoring the Brooklyn Dodgers legend, the 18,500-square-foot museum will showcase Robinson's achievements from 1919 to present, including his participation in the civil rights movement. “The Jackie Robinson Museum is an opportunity to bring an important cultural landmark to NYC—one that challenges visitors to think about the history of social and cultural change and tolerance,” according to Joseph Plumeri, chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation National Legacy Campaign.
Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum one step closer to reality
A proposed new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum could be made into reality if the final portion of its $61 million budget is fulfilled. Currently, over two-thirds of the funding is secured for the 50,000-square-foot, Omniplan Architects–designed building, which will honor the victims of the Holocaust while extending the dialogue of human rights in modern America. “We need a place that allows us to have a discussion about what human rights, diversity, and respect for others mean for our city today,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings during the announcement of the capital campaign. AIA Dallas awarded the building an Unbuilt Design Award in 2015.
United States Marshal Museum construction faces fundraising challenges
While the proposed United States Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, is still in the funding stage, its set opening date is September 24, 2019, to coincide with the 230th anniversary of the U.S Marshals Service. The star-shaped design is reflective of the badges worn by marshals in earlier years, and the building’s location overlooking the Arkansas River is a nod to history: the river used to serve as the U.S.'s border when the service was founded in 1789. The estimated cost of the project is $35.9 million, but the agency’s low profile has been posing problems for the fundraising campaign.
Memorial to Peace and Justice honors victims of lynching
A museum and memorial to victims of lynching is set to open sometime this year in Montgomery, Alabama. Founded by nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and designed by Boston-based MASS Design Group, the Memorial to Peace and Justice resembles a gallows, including hundreds of hanging stone slabs with the names of lynching victims inscribed in them. Between 1877 and 1950, there were more than 4,000 victims of lynching, according to EJI. The accompanying museum will focus on both the history of slavery as well as contemporary issues related to racial inequality.