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Plaza to the Forgotten War

Johnsen Schmaling Architects

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This entry is one of five finalists in the WWI Memorial Design Competition. Read more about the competition here.

Project Description


Situated on a seam between the National Mall and the dense urbaniity of downtown D.C., the Plaza to the Forgotten War commenorates the serivces of World War I American forces by creating a place that devotedly holds onto the memory of the tragic losses endured by the United States throughout the course of war.

A steadfast grid of 1,166 illuminated bronze markers, one for every hundred U.S. deaths in the war, immediately conveys the scale of these losses in a seemingly endless expanse created by gently folded landforms. While resolving the complicated sloping boundaries of the site, these landforms also generate a series of vertically terraced urban spaces that heighten individuals' awareness of their relationship to others. Allees of distinguished red oaks and somber paper birch trees unite to create metered spatial definitions buffering the plaza from the noise of the surrounding environment while maintaining open and inviting views through the site. Visitors can at once find places of respite while sharing in a collective sense of remembrance.

The use of bronze extends to a collonndate of memorial pillars that lines the plaza's main pedestrian boulevard. Capturing a sense of the cold metal-clad machines responsible for much of the war's destruction, the cast bronze ages beautifully to register the memorial with the centennial remembrance of World War I. Elevated by these bronze pillars stand a series of cast glass monoliths inscribed with text that recollects a comprehensive historical account of the United States' involvement in the war. The words, glistening from water that trickles down the core of each pillar, will illuminate current and future generations about the conflict's legacy and the great sacrifices made by Americans on the battlefields and at home.
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