Design competition for WWI memorial begins

WASHINGTON — Pershing Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue just a block from the White House, may be in for big changes. The multilevel plaza between 14th and 15th streets NW is named in honor of World War I Gen. John J. Pershing, and there’s a bronze statue of the general among the trees and park benches.

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission says Pershing Park should be redesignated, reconceived and redeveloped as a national World War I Memorial.

The park is a multiple-level plaza across from the Willard Hotel. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
The park is a multiple-level plaza across from the Willard Hotel. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

An international competition will open Thursday for the design of the memorial. Designers will be asked to submit their plans this summer to be judged by a jury including people from the military, the arts and government, as well as ordinary citizens.

Organizers hope to raise $15 million for the project — far less than the roughly $100 million each for the World War II and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials.

The vice chair of the commission, Edwin Fountain, says he foresees three groups of people bring drawn to the proposed National World War I Memorial: enthusiasts paying their respects; office workers and nearby residents who would use the park for lunch or a stroll; and people who could be drawn by the memorial’s design as an iconic work of art.

Fountain says he has no preconceived notions of what the final design might look like, but says it should be “somber, reflective and reverential, not triumphant.”

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission hopes to dedicate the memorial in 2018 — the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I, which claimed the lives of 116,000 American service members and wounded 204,000.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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