Tuesday, May 24, 2005

World War II Memorial

Last week, while on a business trip to Washington DC, I had my first chance to visit the most recent (and in some parts controversial) addition to the national mall, the World War II Memorial. When I had first heard about the proposed World War II Memorial, I was in the camp of those who were very concerned about the open spaces and vistas of the national mall being marred by some new memorial interposing itself between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. Now that I've actually seen it, I'm relieved to see that the designers have done a great job of creating a worthwhile addition to the mall while also being sensitive not to disrupt the openness and vistas. President Lincoln's view toward the Washington Monument and the Capitol is not really obstructed at all, but rather nicely framed. And likewise from Washington's view looking back toward Lincoln. The new monument is a large open plaza rather than a single central object, with the only structures of any height being the semi-circles of pillars on either side of it, and the domed pavilions in the center of each semi-circle, all of which are in a tasteful scale that does not detract from the other monuments, nor impede the openness of the mall. As any good monument should, it offers a variety of points for contemplation on its theme, including various quotes about the war and the victory, and names of prominent battles (the two sides represent the Pacific and Atlantic theaters). There is the requisite symbolism: a field of 4000 gold stars behind a fountain representing the over 400,000 lives given in the cause, 56 pillars representing each state and territory with a bronze cord showing their bond of unity in the cause. The American eagle sculptures, wreaths and such, in a St. Gaudens-esque style, evoke both patriotism and a sense of that era. I think my personal favorite part was the bronze bas relief panels depicting scenes on both the war front and the "home front". I think it's a welcome addition. (Now, that's really it. Stop. Enough already! Put the Reagan monument somewhere else.)

No comments: