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WWI Memorial Design

Concrete Details: The Winning WWI Memorial Designer Did Just What Was Asked. And That’s the Problem.

Washington City Paper, Feb. 25, 2016

Joseph Weishaar, a 25-year-old junior architect from Chicago, performed an architectural balancing act to win the competition to design a new national World War I memorial in Pershing Park.

His design “The Weight of Sacrifice,” with low walls around a rectangular lawn and a minimalist plaza, is clean enough to feel contemporary. But the walls will be made of bronze, carved by the sculptor Sabin Howard into classical bas-reliefs and etched with quotations—a move that has won over traditionalists.

Chosen from more than 350 entries, Weishaar’s scheme unites a celebration of victory with mourning the fallen. The raised central lawn and heroic “Brothers in Arms” bas-relief ease the weight of dark, downward-sloping walls, reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In other words, this is a very well-calibrated design.

Whether equipoise should be the main virtue of a war memorial, though, is another matter.

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Photograph by Darrow Montgomery