Update on that WWI memorial: Preservationists object | Rock Candy

Monday, February 1, 2016

Update on that WWI memorial: Preservationists object

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 12:37 PM

click to enlarge Weishaar's design, which would replace pool, waterfall and seating.
  • Weishaar's design, which would replace pool, waterfall and seating.
The Chicago Tribune today has a fascinating story on what UA architecture grad Joe Weishaar — and the World War I Centennial Commission — is up against in his design for a Great War memorial in Pershing Park, located north of the National Mall. 

The article was forward to me by Nord Wennerstrom of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which strongly opposes the design on the grounds that it would require the demolition of the park, which the National Park Service says is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The design would replace an inoperable sunken pool basis, tiered seating and waterfall with a raised lawn supported by bronze walls with bas-relief portrayals of soldiers in battle. 

The Tribune notes earlier memorial battles and refers to a meeting Weishaar had with famed Vietnam memorial sculptor Maya Lin:

Seventeen years after Congress authorized the construction of an Eisenhower Memorial, the tribute to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower remains unbuilt, largely because of the Eisenhower family's impassioned opposition to architect Frank Gehry's design. And what Gehry has endured is nothing compared to the travails of New York architect and artist Maya Lin, who in 1981 won the design competition for the now-revered Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Opponents called Lin's plan for the V-shaped, granite-walled memorial "a black gash of shame." They attacked Lin, then a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate, with racial slurs.

Appropriately, then, Weishaar met Lin last fall when she gave a lecture at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. He'd already emerged from a field of more than 350 entrants as one of five finalists for the World War I memorial. Peter MacKeith, dean of the University of Arkansas school of architecture invited Weishaar, a 2013 graduate of the school, to the lecture. He and Lin had a memorable exchange.

"She told me to have a sense of humor," Weishaar recalled. "She said: 'I'm glad it's you and not me again.' "

The article also quotes Charles Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, as saying the group wants "to see is a solution that manages change in a sympathetic way to this space and honors those who served in that war. We don't think those are mutually exclusive." The foundation issued this statement: 
The memorial must leap a monetary wall as well: It will take an estimated $30 million to $40 million in private to build; only $1 million has been raised.

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