WWI MEMORIAL I WASHINGTON DC I 2015
WORLD WAR ONE CENTENNIAL COMMISSION
The WWI Memorial is a park, and Pershing Park is now a memorial to all Americans who served in the Great War.
The Memorial is a landscape that evokes the French fields where Americans fought five major battles, represented by five mounds forming a central sunken space flowing from the northwest to the southeast corner of the park, where the statue of General Pershing stands atop a monticule at the end of a moving perspective. This sunken pathway, a memory of the trenches of WWI, is also a march, a timeline and a recollection of the sacrifice of those who served. Its enclosing walls are etched with images of entrenched soldiers, of surging warriors, of triumphant servicemen and women returning home; images of heroism and valor that appear to come out of the steel like troops out of the fog. Its gravel bottom is embedded with 53,402 glistening discs, one for every American who died in combat. At night, the circles glow and form a luminous field leading to the statue of Pershing. Visitors see people above, at the tip of the promontories, learning the history of the major battles, and overlooking the frescos and patterns of circles below. The hills are places where people play, picnic, rest and inhabit the park throughout the day and through the seasons, with views the Capitol, the WW2 Memorial and the Washington Monument.
The park engages the surrounding historic city. Its classically paved perimeter is lined with trees and modulated by triangular plazas that protrude into the Memorial topography evoking the movement of American battalions in the French countryside. The mounds frame views of the inner memorial, inviting passersby to enter the landscape, climb, look down and discover a groove in the earth that holds the memory of brave Americans, and tells a story of heroism and atrocity that changed this country.