A few days ago the following article appeared in the local newspaper serving Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is the hometown of Joseph Weishaar, the young architect whose design was selected for the National WW1 Memorial to be built in Pershing Park, Washington, DC.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (AR)

April 18, 2017

World War I memorial won’t be finished in time for centennial
Arkansas native’s design scaled back following review process


WASHINGTON – The new national World War I memorial won’t be finished in time for the centennial of the armistice that ended the conflict, officials said last week.

The memorial won’t be as sweeping as originally envisioned, either, but the simpler design may cost less money and encounter less opposition, they added.

Fayetteville native Joseph Weishaar was selected as the designer after winning an international competition. Phoebe Lickwar, a professor at the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture, is the project’s landscape architect. Sabin Howard, a New York City sculptor, will create the 65-foot-long bronze wall that will be a focal point of the project.

Edwin Fountain, vice chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, said the goal is to break ground by Nov. 11, 2018, exactly 100 years after the fighting stopped.

But there are still hoops to jump through – and millions of dollars to raise – before construction can begin.

“This design has to be approved by four different agencies: three federal and one for the District of Columbia. And it has to go through a public historic preservation review process, and that, frankly, was something that we did not anticipate when we started this,” Fountain said.

Originally, officials had hoped to complete the project in time for the anniversary.

The United States entered the war in April 1917, enabling England, France and their allies to defeat the nations aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Millions of people died in the conflict, including 116,000 Americans.

The memorial, which will be built along a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, is to be built at Pershing Park, a 1.76-acre, trapezoid-shaped space near the White House.

Featuring a statue of the man who led the U.S. war effort, General of the Armies John Pershing, it has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

The original design, unveiled in January 2016, would have made dramatic changes to the park, which was designed by landscape architect Paul Friedberg and opened in 1981. But the plan has been scaled back due to opposition from historic preservationists.

In September, the Washington, D.C., State Historic Preservation Office determined that the existing park is “nationally significant” and qualifies for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The office’s 43-page report found that the park, in its current form, is “an exceptional example of a landscape design of the modern period and of an approach to the design of public space as an integral part of the revitalization of an urban neighborhood in decline.”

Friedberg, the report said, is “one of modern American landscape architecture’s most accomplished urban designers.”

Rather than fight, the memorial’s boosters have compromised.

The original design kept the statue but erased many of the other features of the park.

The updated plan eliminates an existing ice-skating rink and refreshment stand, replacing the vendor’s kiosk with a flag display. But most other features of the park will remain.

“I think we’ve got to the point where we’re preserving about 96 percent of the park,” Fountain said Thursday.

Weishaar, who had never visited the nation’s capital until he entered the contest, now lives there.

He spends about 80 percent of his time working on the memorial, not only reworking the design, but also promoting the project and helping with fundraising.

“The design continues to evolve,” he said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to see things that I love go by the wayside, but other things have gotten better and stronger.”

The project is slowly moving through the federal bureaucracy. The Commission on Fine Arts will review the proposal May 18. The National Capital Planning Commission will consider it on June 1.

Lickwar, who worked on the 9/11 memorial in New York City, said she’s glad she’s part of the World War I memorial effort.

“It’s very exciting and it’s a lot of responsibility,” she said. “It’s a big challenge, I think, to balance preservation and commemoration.”

Howard said his artwork will depict America’s involvement in the war from start to finish. “You want to show that war has a cost. You really want to show the pain and suffering, and you want to show the human emotion and the brotherhood of arms and the sense of humanity,” he said.

It may take as many as six years to complete the wall, he said.

Copyright 2017
Record Number: 163D935B30DEE8F8

For those of us who are interested in the project this isn’t good news. It should also be noted that both the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) and the National Capitol Planning Commission (NCPC) have also released unfavorable preliminary comments on Weishaar’s original design. This is what the CFA had to say:

‘24 February 2017

In its meeting of 16 February, the Commission of Fine Arts reviewed a new concept design for the National World War I Memorial proposed for Pershing Park, a nationally significant landscape designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Associates, located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, NW. The Commission did not take an action and provided the following comments. The Commission members expressed appreciation for the clarity of the presentation and the evolution of the design since their previous review of the project in October 2016; they acknowledged the difficulty of the design problem in balancing the new commemorative program with the complexity and character of the exemplary Friedberg design, but they expressed great optimism that a solution can be found. They emphasized again that the fundamental challenge is to insert a new commemorative program into the existing park, not to modify the park substantially to accommodate a wholly new memorial; they urged the design team to focus less upon the individual elements of the park and memorial program, and more upon the potential experience of a coherent landscape. In their discussion, the Commission members commented on the complexity of the historic landscape, with its subtle sequence of spatial and sectional articulation, its intimate scale, and its contemplative character—all of which contribute to an experience of respite within an urban setting. They suggested that this quiet, contemplative character may be the common quality that can reconcile the dual goals of protecting the historic landscape and accommodating the new commemorative purpose. Given the intimate scale of the historic park, they urged the reconsideration of the commemorative elements proposed, both in typology and location, recommending that a smaller intervention may be more appropriate: perhaps a single sculpture in the round, or multiple elements distributed within or at the perimeter of the site. They found that the extended wall and bas relief—especially as proposed in the “Scrim and Green” alternative—would overwhelm the existing park design. They observed that the necessary programmatic interventions may be perceived as much larger in the context of Pershing Park than they would in a more open setting, and they commented that the weight and power of the memorial’s message of sacrifice can be conveyed appropriately with less massive elements .In the development of the design, the Commission members noted the opportunity to bring a more intentional relationship among commemorative elements, such as the existing Pershing statue, a new feature at the kiosk site, and any other new memorial pieces within the park landscape. They opposed the transformation of the existing central pool—with its characteristic edge treatment of terraced plantings on two sides—into a vestigial scrim of intermittent water set into a field of stone paving; they also characterized the introduction of a grass lawn into the central space as inappropriate and alien to Friedberg’s original park-plaza hybrid concept. Finally, they strongly recommended the use of water—whether moving, still, noisy, reflective—as an element that would enhance and extend the visitors’ experience of the historic park and inform the symbolism of the modern memorial. They suggested engaging in dialogue with the park’s original designer, who may provide productive guidance for developing the design.’

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and is affiliated with the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Salonika Campaign Society and the Gallipoli Association.