WWI Memorial Designer Joe Weishaar to Share War Stories
By Kendall Curlee
Director of Communications, Honors College, University of Arkansas
via the University of Arkansas web site
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Joe Weishaar was a 25-year-old architecture intern with a Chicago firm when late-night and weekend design work paid off big. He beat out more than 350 applicants from around the world to design the national World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C. But the dream project has stirred up a fair amount of controversy.
Weishaar, a native of Fayetteville and a 2013 graduate of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and the Honors College, will return to campus to present a free public lecture, “To End All Wars: The Fight for the National WWI Memorial,” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in Gearhart Hall Auditorium. A light reception will follow in the Honors Student Lounge, room 130, Gearhart Hall. The lecture is part of the Honors College Invites series, which brings thinkers and doers to campus to share their experiences.
“We’re delighted to welcome Joe back to campus, and eager to see the updated designs for the national World War I Memorial, which will connect visitors with a critical moment in world history,” said Lynda Coon, dean of the Honors College.
Waging a Beltway Battle
Weishaar’s initial plan for the memorial called for a dramatic change to the proposed site, Pershing Park, located just a block from the White House. The jury praised his proposal, The Weight of Sacrifice, as “elegant and absolute,” and a “deceptively simple concept” that remediated a problematic site. His design centered around replacing the park’s litter-strewn, dried-up sunken pool with a lawn at street level, and inserting an 87-foot-long bronze wall, featuring the work of sculptor Sabin Howard, that would invite passersby to touch.
Two years later, the project has hit a few road bumps, centered chiefly on a reconsideration of Pershing Park, which was designed by M. Paul Friedberg and completed in 1981, as an “exceptional example of a landscape design of the modern period,” according to the National Park Service. The park is now being considered for the National Register of Historic Places, and that changes things, Weishaar said.
“Some of the things we wanted to do early on were met with great resistance,” Weishaar said. “Now, the design calls for roughly 96 percent restoration of the existing park.” His current proposal reduces the bronze relief wall to 57 feet in length and inserts it into the western edge of the existing water feature. An elevated path through the water will allow visitors to interact with the sculpture, which has evolved from bas relief to high relief. “The figures really stand out from the ground and are more dynamic, so there is a bit of a gap; we don’t want someone to walk too close, and get stabbed with a bayonet,” he said jokingly.
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