A new memorial designed pro bono by international architecture/engineering firm LEO A DALY honors the sacrifice of firefighters killed in the line of duty while serving Minnesota communities. Completed in September 2012, the memorial is located on the State Capitol grounds in Saint Paul and houses the Minnesota Firefighters Memorial Statue, previously on display at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
The vision for the memorial is to provide a meaningful experience for Capitol visitors—those with direct connections to the fire service and those who appreciate their efforts. The design of the 6,000-square-foot memorial incorporates symbols evocative of the fire service. The ground leading to the memorial slopes upward, presenting visitors with a view of a cast stone wall covered with inscriptions of the 791 fire departments throughout the state. The wall subdivides the site into a landscaped garden and a paved gathering area.
A large monolith forms a ceiling above the statue of a firefighter rescuing a child. Supported by a field of slender columns, it creates a pavilion that intercedes between the monumental scale of the Capitol grounds and the smaller scale of the statue. The pavilion is made of weathering steel plate, which rusts to form a protective coating—a process similar to the oxidation of fire. Names of fallen firefighters are inscribed on sleeves affixed to the columns. Today, 86 columns are part of the grid, recording the years in which Minnesota firefighters have died in the line of duty, and the design allows room for necessary additions. Outside the pavilion, a sculpted cedar bench with a burned finish provides a place for reflection.
At first glance, the memorial is simple-looking, small in scope and built with low-tech materials. But it is a complex project that benefited from state-of-the-art digital technologies at each stage of design and construction.
The design team used a BIM (Revit) model as the central location of all project information. Many inputs were entered into the model for use in the design, including Excel spreadsheets of inscription information, historical records, and design data from Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD and SketchUp. Because the project demanded durability and an exacting level of detail, the team’s ability to create digital outputs for precise fabrication enabled a high level of quality. Though the project was fairly typical of a design/build model, the use of BIM also allowed the team to maintain a tight schedule of design reviews, revisions and construction. The team was also able to rapidly coordinate technical issues to complete the project in time for a dedication event that was months in the planning.