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Planned WWI Memorial in D.C. to use pool concept, restore park

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts saw the project as moving in a good direction, but still had some suggestions to make

All images via the National Park Service

This Thursday, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) evaluated the concept plan for the planned WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park, a memorial plaza only blocks from the White House that for years has been neglected.

In the previous meeting in February 2017, there were two design concepts on the table: the Pool and Plaza Concept and the Scrim and Green Concept. At the latest CFA meeting, the WWI Commission revealed that they chose the Pool and Plaza Concept.

This concept proposes replacing the concession gazebo in the park with a ceremonial flag stand, restoring and enlarging the fountain, and inserting a walkway for access to a planned sculpture 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. All other areas of the park will be preserved. The design, titled, “The Weight of Sacrifice,” also features a bronze, sunken wall, entitled, "The Wall of Remembrance," decorated with soldiers carved in bas-relief.

The images planned to be carved in the commemorative wall.

Members of the CFA commented that the designs have come a long way and are moving in a good direction. Despite this, there were some concerns. For one, members deemed the flag stand insignificant for the meaning of the memorial. The exact depth and size of the water element in the proposal was also deemed vague. Furthermore, during the public commentary section of the CFA meeting, one member said there was a lack of seating in Pershing Park, but the CFA disagreed on this point.

Overall, there was support from the CFA on the direction of the project, but members still stated that it “needs work.”

At the last CFA meeting in March 2017, the CFA said that fewer massive elements are necessary to convey the memorial’s message, especially in such a historic park. Pershing Park is eligible 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 Cultural Landscape Foundation President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum, it is also the only Friedberg project with a planting plan by D.C.-based landscape architects Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden.

In a letter President of the WWI Memorial Foundation David J. DeJonge sent to the CFA on May 16, DeJonge criticized the project for its major changes to the design of the park. DeJonge further added, “The deaths of 116,561 veterans should clearly be remembered with a memorial that is more significant than a flag display on the corner of a park surrounded by traffic.”

The memorial is expected to cost between $30 million to $35 million, which will be raised from private donors.