On Memorials Near The Pentagon

Air Force Memorial, James Ingo Freed, image:af.mil

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.

Design Selected For Pentagon Memorial

model for Kaseman Beckman Pentagon Memorial design, image: defenselink.mil

And the winner is: A proposal by Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman, two recent Columbia grads, to build 184 “memorial units” in a grove of maple trees. Interesting details: All benches are aligned with the flight path of AA77. Memorial units for those who died on the plane cantilever away from the building, while units for those who died in the Pentagon cantilever away toward it.
Read the Wash. Post article, including comments by the designers and jury chief/MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley. Read Post critic Benjamin Forgey’s generally positive review. Read my greg.org posts about my frustration with the hyper-individualization of memorials, follow competition links, and see my rash design response.

Irish Hunger Memorial, also at the World Financial Center


Irish Hunger Monument, by David F. Gallagher, lightningfield.com

On his photo weblog lightningfield, David Gallagher published some photos and reviews of the Irish Hunger Monument which opened this summer in Battery Park City. The Monument is designed by artist Brian Tolle, whose idea was to create a 1/4 acre plot of Irish farmland in Manhattan. This patently artificial landscape recalls the British land policies which exacerbated the Irish potato famine of the 1840’s. Critical response to the monument has been mixed, but I have to appreciate the work’s solid conceptual basis. There’s a cautionary tale here, though, about how to deal with constituent and political exigencies; according to one reporter’s account, Tolle argued against several elements which have come under criticism. (When a monument brags about having “nearly two miles of text,” feel free to worry.)

Pentagon Memorial Response — Update

Pentagon Memorial Ramp, a response by Greg Allen
Proposed Pentagon Memorial Ramp, Greg Allen

Thanks to a very talented friend–no stranger to the question of memorials–who can sketch in 3-D modelling programs the way I can…crank out a Powerpoint deck or a term sheet, I guess, I have some new depictions of the Pentagon Memorial design I created as a response to the finalists chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Competition Jury. See all the greg.org entries about memorials here. It’s a subject that interests me so much, I made a movie about it.

On greg.org on Memorials

After posting my review and response to the Pentagon Memorial Competition, I realized that in addition to writing “about making films, about art,” I have written quite a bit about memorials. So I collected those weblog entries in one spot. Click here to read them. The entries include:

  • discussions of efforts to rebuild the WTC and downtown Manhattan
  • WTC memorials, including the Tribute in Light
  • other memorials, such as the Vietnam Memorial and the Iwo Jima Memorial
  • stories from shooting Souvenir (November 2001), my movie about WWI memorials, and
  • the experiences that inspired the film.
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