Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, October 9, 2015

Finalist for the National World War One Memorial Design: Heroes' Green

We conclude our presentation of the five finalists for the design of America's World War One memorial with:

Heroes' Green

0329 Heroes' Green by Maria Counts of Counts Studio in Brooklyn, NY

Concept Statement

Major Design Features:

  • Sculptured effect of landscaping and grading to provide shade and sweeping views and to create a civic amphitheater and dramatic promenade.

  • Five 30-  to 40-foot embedded copper walls with WWI life-size imagery

  • Tree Garden of 116 ginkgo trees, one for every thousand Americans, who died in the war.

Schematic Showing Key Points, Pathways and Grading Plan
(click to enlarge)

Jury Comments: The concept seamlessly blends memorial, park and garden into a new type of public space. There is a strong sense of movement through the space, balancing park-like qualities with memorial episodes and providing opportunities for integration of art as an integral part of the memorial experience. The sculptural landscape in itself is symbolic, memorable and will provide a welcome respite to the visitor. The inherent potential of “inventing” a new typology of civic space that works well as a memorial is the challenge.

We also invite commentators to share your observations with your fellow readers below.  MH


  1. While I welcome the continued sentiment and sense of respect towards the Great War and our countrymen who served, creating a "new" memorial cheapens the importance and especially the significant history of The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. Washington D.C. may be our nation's capital, it does not automatically make it the be all, end all center for monuments and memorials. Did our servicemen serve for the glory of Washington DC, or for a myriad of reasons such a adventure, world peace, family, home, etc?

    1. Liberty Memorial was only given "National" designation in the act of Congress that made whatever is put up in Pershing Park a national memorial as well.

      It was a compromise. Neither camp wanted the other to be given the designation.

    2. President Wilson on April 2, 1917, sought a declaration of war from Congress against Germany in order that the "world may be made safe for democracy."

      Unfortunately, the political process to pass the law that legitimized and authorized a "National WW I Memorial" was anything but a democratic process, which would have been open to public hearings in Congress and treated as a separate piece of legislation, not hidden as an earmark in other legislation.

      The two National WW I Memorials are a product of a shameful political process to bypass the American people by a small group of business and political interests in MO and DC seeking to make tourist money off of this venture.

      The legislation was passed in an act of political chicanery by MO and DC legislators to avoid such an open democratic process, to get the WW I Memorial "off the Mall," and torpedo competing legislation (The Frank Buckles WW I Memorial Act) that had already had congressional hearings to build a National WW I Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC.

      This effort, led by MO politicians, with no House or Senate committee hearings, resulted in passage of this law that created two "national" WW I memorials (Pershing Park and Kansas City) and killed a National WW I Memorial Act to place it on the Mall (see opposing views never given a voice in Congress: ).

      It was only a "compromise" between two business and tourist interests in MO and DC, who colluded, without congressional hearings, to sneak this legislation through Congress on an earmark to a huge defense bill that few Congressmen even saw in passing the defense bill, to further tourists and business interests in MO & DC. There was no "congressional compromise" since they were not consulted, with no hearings held or vote made on this legislation as a stand alone measure.

      If there was a "compromise" it was one that DC and MO legislators made with the WW I Memorial Commission giving them an alternative space "off the Mall" to build a "National WW I Memorial" in Pershing long as MO could also get naming rights for an additional "National" WW I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City" and the DC delegation got the WW I Memorial "off the Mall."

      I just find this protest ironic, that the very memorial to a war " to save the world for democracy" and honor those who fought for this principle were dishonored by the process to get both of these memorials.

      For someone advocating for the Kansas City WW I Museum & Memorial to cry "foul" in this corrupt political process over the location of a National WW I Memorial in DC as a well as in KC, is terribly disingenuous. This two- headed monster was a creature of their own making.

      As a veteran and the son of a WW I veteran, I would have liked to have had open hearings on the options, including consideration of a WW I memorial on the Mall.

      I am now overwhelmed with feelings of "schadenfreude" over anyone who feels the Kansas City site was "cheapened" by building a WW I Memorial in Washington, DC. All the players in this dirty political game over the location of the WW I Memorial got less than they had hoped for by violating the very principles of democracy for which our dough-boys fought.

    3. It's a little bit more complicated than that. I understand the citizens of Washington who did not want their local memorial nationalized - and felt like an expansion of their site would would again be cheapening the local contribution. They already feel as though their city isn't really theirs.

      Likewise, I can understand the folks in Kansas City's position. Liberty memorial was kind of considered a "national memorial" from the beginning. Otherwise they never would have gotten all the dignitaries to show up for the groundbreaking.

      I think the local citizens of Washington were hell bent on keeping a national memorial away from theirs. They were threatening lawsuits and everything.

      No one was going to be completely happy in this. Hell, they should have just expanded the stuff around the Coliseum in Los Angeles and federalized it ticking both sides off. It's already dedicated to all who served from WWI.

    4. I apologize if anyone took my wording as an intentional affront to those who disagree with my own opinions. I can appreciate others' emotions as I am a combat veteran of two (2) separate wars myself, and have a proud family military heritage that extends to our nation's founding. But, please do not assume you fully understand me, my feelings toward other's, and my own personal motives. I mean no ill will, nor argument, only discussion.

      My issue is not on who swindled who, or how our politicians endlessly engage in "dirty" politics, but rather what the KC location has been [albeit unofficially for most of its life], what historically has occurred on its grounds, how long it has stood, how many visitors it has had [to include the WWI veterans themselves] and does routinely receive, how well it is kept, and how dedicated to their mission the LMA, its volunteers, its donors are and have conducted themselves with reverence and respect to our World War I veterans.

      In a contemporary cultural environment where those that wish to forget our national history [the good, the bad, and the indifferent], as well as those who wish to "rename" memorialized schools, parks, roads, buildings, airports, installations, etc, just because that generation is gone or under-represented, this would be just one more episode of this ongoing trend. Do not think that my statement is wrapped around the most recent events of denying "legally mandated" respect to our confederate veterans and their memory, but includes a myriad of events and circumstances: local, regional, and national that happens continuously.

      Should we not appreciate any of the other "National" parks and memorials that are across this nation unless they are relocated to DC? [St Louis Arch, Mt Rushmore, Oregon Trail, etc?]

  2. The 116 trees will die just as all WW1 memorial groves have died. Even LSU has lost some of its live oaks and those trees can last a really long time. The greenswards will go unwatered. The problem with all solutions centered around landscaping is maintenance. The original Pershing Park was a landscape design and it has not been maintained. If it had we might be talking about a different location.

    1. The trees in Rainbow Memorial Grove at Exposition Parkin LA have not died. All of the trees are very healthy and large. Not that many people know the significance of the trees.

  3. Couldn't agree more, James Patton.

  4. This still doesn't get at the sentiment of the Great War, but it does look like a battlefield with all the artillery craters. Also sad that DC does not want it's memorial to become the heart of the countries memorial. Maybe we should just spruce up Pershing Park with a memorial plaque or two? Then Pershing Park near the District Building will become the Nation's Memorial. And the DC Memorial on the National Mall will become the District's Memorial.