A design for the proposed National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park has been selected, the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission announced Tuesday — but the memorial still isn’t a done deal.
The winning design, titled “The Weight of Sacrifice,” comes from 25-year-old Chicago architect Joseph Weishaar in collaboration with Sabin Howard of New York. It was selected from more than 350 entries.
Each cubic foot of the memorial represents an American soldier who died during the war: 116,516 in total, according to the project overview.
The memorial features relief sculpture, quotations from soldiers and a freestanding sculpture. Together, they focus on the themes of “public space and personal freedom” — that these two ideas are only available through the sacrifice of soldiers — and of the “glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war,” according the commission.
However, Pershing Park, which is located at Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 14th Street NW, is already home to a World War I memorial, named after U.S. Army General John Joseph Pershing.
Proponents of the new design say it would “transform Pershing Park from a park that happens to contain a memorial to a site that is primarily a national World War I memorial, within a revitalized urban park setting,” according to the design objective of the competition manual.
Charles Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, is among those advocating to protect the original memorial designed by M. Paul Friedberg or to incorporate it into the new design.
“The World War I Memorial Commission did meet with stakeholders, and they also knew that Pershing Park would likely be eligible to the National Register, which would restrict the impact on the park, but they never really listened,” Birnbaum said in a press release. “Instead, they opted for conflict over collaboration.”
Groups including the National Park Service and the National Capital Planning Commission would have to sign off on the design, so the Cultural Landscape Foundation has been campaigning since August to urge National Mall and National Park Service stakeholders to preserve Pershing Park, adding it as a Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site.
That would slow any possible changes to the park.