Plaza to a Forgotten War
Johnsen Schmaling Architects
Credits for the larger team
Johnsen Schmaling Architects, Halvorson Design Partnership, ARUP, George Sexton Associates, Joel Berman Glass Studios, Zahner, Irrigation Consulting, Pine & Swallow
Plaza To a Forgotten War
The Plaza to a Forgotten War is a memorial and urban park dedicated to the heroic sacrifices made by Americans during World War I. An expansive, linear field of inground fiber-optic lights fills the center of the site, forming a dense and seemingly endless grid of illuminated markers that conveys the staggering scale of losses endured. Sculptural cast- bronze pillars march down the field of lights, their weathering skins carrying milled imagery of the novel war machines that rendered this conflict so unprecedentedly destructive. The bronze pillars support precious, cast-glass monoliths, their translucent surfaces inscribed with intimate letters from servicemen and women torn between hope and despair. Linear benches provide visitors a place of contemplation, inviting them to rest and share in a collective sense of remembrance. Allées of Pin Oaks bracket the granite-paved plaza and provide shade, leading to a small grove next to the restored Pershing Memorial where the General solemnly stands watch over the field of lights. Evoking the rolling battlefields of Europe, sloped meadows embrace the plaza’s perimeter like clasping hands, creating a soft, undulating buffer that bursts into a sea of crimson poppies every spring. Acting as an informal counterpoint to the strict formality of the memorial itself, the northern half of the site transforms into a great lawn bordered by the mature trees of Pennsylvania Avenue, a greenspace offering visual repose designed for recreation and programmed events. The site’s landscape features weave together the carefully choreographed layers of meaning, creating an inviting and sustainable urban park that devotedly holds onto the memory of a momentous war while accommodating the vibrancy of contemporary life – a dignified memorial plaza that faithfully upholds Washington’s distinguished legacy of monuments paying tribute to our nation’s unsung heroes.