In Washington, D.C., Pershing Park is a memorial plaza only blocks from the White House that for years has been neglected, and soon it may house the city’s next WWI Memorial. This Thursday, the WWI Commission presented two design alternatives to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, called the Pool and Plaza Concept and the Scrim and Green Concept.
The Pool and Plaza Concept hopes to retain the current views and vistas, while also repositioning the Pershing statue. The central sunken room will have a bas-relief wall, and the flagpole will occupy the circular plinth at the site of a former cafe kiosk. Vertical surfaces of planters along Pennsylvania Avenue NW will also be rebuilt in bronze and inscribed with stories of the “lost generation.”
For the Scrim and Green Concept, a flagpole will be located near the site of the former cafe kiosk. The sunken portion of the space will be raised to make portions of the park more visible. A bas-relief wall will replace the fountain as the westernmost focal point. Terraced seating will also be removed. According to a Powerpoint presentation displayed this Thursday, this concept offers a “greater choice of universally-accessible circulation throughout the park.”
Below, see a comparison of the two design concepts:
At this Thursday’s meeting, The Cultural Landscape Foundation President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum argued that any significant changes made to Pershing Park should be made with close scrutiny.
This is due to the park’s eligibility to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, having been designed by award-winning landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, whose previous projects include New York’s Battery Park City and Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza. According to Birnbaum, it is also the only Friedberg project with a planting plan by D.C.-based landscape architects Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden.
After Birnbaum reached out to Friedberg with the WWI Commission’s designs, Friedberg responded by saying, “The design represented does not build on what was positive and successful. It is an accumulation of pieces with no apparent relationship to each other. It appears to be an accumulation of disparate elements to satisfy an authority.”
He added, “An example of this is in the use of water. It is present, however what [is proposed] appears to be obligatory, a static stand-alone element. There is no attempt to employ the range and character of water—sound, reflection, movement, focal point, and symbolism.”
In January 2016, the WWI Commission chose the design for the WWI Memorial after accepting 360 entries into a design competition. The winning design is titled, “The Weight of Sacrifice,” and designed by Chicago-based architect Joseph Weishaar and New York-based sculptor Sabin Howard.
Weishaar’s design features a 10-foot-tall, 75-foot-long, bronze, sunken wall decorated with soldiers carved in bas-relief. This wall is entitled, "The Wall of Remembrance."
There are also plans for a statue honoring General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, who commanded U.S. forces during WWI, with inscriptions of text and maps describing his actions in the war.
The memorial is expected to cost between $30 million to $35 million, which will be raised from private donors.