Earlier this month, the Air Force unveiled James Ingo Freed’s design for the Air Force Memorial, which will be located on a ridge overlooking the Pentagon and the Pentagon’s own recently announced September 11th Memorial. The design is inspired by fighter jet contrails, which I can’t complain about, since my disappointment with the 9/11 memorial competition drove me to a similar–but more jarring, and far less elegant–concept for the Pentagon Memorial.
What I objected to was the many designs’ near-total emphasis on the individuals who died, to the exclusion of the greater import of the event. What turned out to be the winning design, in fact, was the apotheosis of this trend; it features 184 “memorial units,” aka benches, with individually lighted reflecting pools. I blame a bathetic misreading and misapplication of Maya Lin’s minimalist memorial language. But I’ve written a lot of this before.
What’s new, though, is Bradford McKee’s piece in Slate, where he points out an other, more fundamental flaw in the Memorial plan: no one will be able to actually visit. The Pentagon’s chosen site is essentially inaccessible, for both logistical and security reasons. Oh, and it’s right next to a noisy highway.
To imagine the resulting memorial’s best case scenario, just look at the completely unvisited Navy and Marine Memorial, which is located on the Potomac in the Ladybird Johnson Memorial Park, part of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, aka the landscaping along the highway.