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Memorial Finalists Chosen Amid Concern

Monday, August 24, 2015

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More than a century after the First World War began and after all the U.S. Veterans for that war have died, the commission tasked with building an honorable memorial has chosen five finalist designs.

The World War One Centennial Commission announced Wednesday (Aug. 19) that it has made its selection from the more than 350 submissions the commission received.

Each of the five designers will receive $25,000 to develop their designs, and the public will get a chance to comment on the designs between now and January 2016. That’s when the winner will be chosen.

Unlike Ike

The five designs vary in architectural style and reflect the openness of the competition itself.

Unlike the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial—which only allowed selected designers to submit ideas and which encouraged a modernistic approach—a recent article in Architectural Record reported that the World War I Memorial was open to anyone over 18 years old who submitted an idea.

World War I Centennial Commission

"Plaza to the Forgotten War" is one of five final designs for the World War I Memorial planned at the existing Pershing Park in Washington, D.C. Preservationists are not happy that the park likely will be destroyed.

Some have argued that allowing an open competition and public comment is a chance to revert to a more classical design than the Ike Memorial, which has fought opponents since its selection, AR said.

Edwin Fountain, the vice-chairman of the commission, said his group was aware of the problems associated with the Eisenhower project. But, he told AR, that’s not why the group approached its selection this way.

“If having an open competition makes it more likely that we get a classical design, that’s fine,” Fountain told the magazine. “But that’s not why we did it.

“By providing more visibility and opportunity for public engagement than may have been the case with the Eisenhower, people will at least understand how we got to the chosen design,” he said.

The Final Five

The public is invited to comment on the following designs:

Pershing Out, WWI In

Even if the public likes the designs, preservationists and other designers might not, AR reported.

The new memorial will be built on the Pershing Park, which is close to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue but has fallen into disrepair since opening in 1981.

Although designers were invited to incorporate the current park into their new designs, few did, AR said.

World War I Centennial Commission

The existing Pershing Park, designed by modernist architect M. Paul Friedberg and dedicated to WWI U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing, is close to the White House, but has not been well maintained.

“The honorable thing would have been to come to me first,” said M. Paul Friedberg, the modernist architect who designed Pershing Park, which itself is named after victorious WWI Army Gen. John J. Pershing.

Friedberg told AR that he might have found a way to accommodate a memorial without destroying the existing park. He said the park already “expresses what we fought for in World War I—which was the ability to use free and open space without fear. That’s what contemporary urban spaces seek to do.”

AR said Friedberg has some strong support behind him. Charles Birnbaum of the Cultural Landscape Foundation is one of several preservationists who are calling on National Park Service to protect, rather than allow the elimination of, the modernist landscape.

Moving Forward

But with Congress already having given the green light and the finalists beginning their developments, that seems less likely to happen.

World War I Centennial Commission

"Heroes' Green," another finalist, was chosen from more than 350 entries in a competition designed to be more open than the one used to design the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

“We have partnered closely with stakeholder organizations to listen to as many voices as possible, and to bring forward the best possible plan,” said Robert Dalessandro, the commission’s chairman. “We will continue to do so.

“Those stakeholder partners include, but are not limited to, the National Park Service, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Planning Commission," said Dalessandro.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Commerial/Architectural; Competitions; Government; Landscape architects; Modernist architecture; Monuments; North America

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