WASHINGTON — A 25-year-old architect’s design has been selected for the World War I memorial, which planners envision as a contemplative and educational space honoring American members of the military who fought in The Great War.
On Tuesday at the National Press Club, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission announced that Joseph Weishaar’s proposal, “The Weight of Sacrifice,” was chosen from more than 360 submissions.
Weishaar, a Chicago resident, is so new to the game that he is not yet a licensed architect. He graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Arkansas in 2013. And he is collaborating with veteran sculptor Sabin Howard on the project.
In 2013 Congress established the commission to coordinate national observances of the centennial of World War I, which broke out in Europe in 1914.
At present, there is no federal memorial to the veterans of World War I in the nation’s capital.
“One specific war has been left out of our national consciousness,” said Libby O’Connell, commissioner of the Centennial Commission. “Today we take a great step forward in righting that wrong.”
Pershing Park, a block from the White House, just off the National Mall, was selected as the site for the national World War I memorial. It is directly across the street from the historic Willard Hotel, where Abraham Lincoln lodged in the days prior to his first inaugural.
The memorial is expected to cost between $30 million and $35 million. The commission hopes it will be finished by November 2018, the hundredth anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, a conflict that left 116,516 American service members dead,
Critics are complaining that the design will require the demolition of Pershing Park’s original design, which could be placed on the National Register of Historic Places this spring.
“None of the proposals, selected in July from 360 entries, rises to a standard the commission should champion”, wrote Philop Kennicottt, the Washington Post’s architecture critic.
The chosen design maintains some of the park’s current features, including a statue honoring General John J. Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.
The new memorial will have a dual use function as a memorial and as a public park. It will include sculptures depicting ordinary soldiers who fought in the war.
The proposed design still has to be reviewed by other stakeholder agencies—such as the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission—and may change in the upcoming months.
“I am thrilled that the design chosen will depict people from all walks of life,” said Sandra Pershing, on behalf of the Pershing family. “Victory required something from everyone.”