Design Announced for New National WWI Memorial

It took a few days longer than planned, but the World War I Centennial Commission has announced the winner of the competition to design a new National WWI Memorial in Washington, DC:

Aerial rendering of the "Weight of Sacrifice" design
Aerial view of the design for the new WWI Memorial in Pershing Park, near the White House – WWI Centennial Commission

The Weight of Sacrifice” was designed by a team led by a young architect named Joseph Weishaar, who told the Chicago Tribune that he hadn’t even visited the nation’s capital before being named a finalist.

Normally I’m all about going and seeing a place and designing from there… And this was just one of those cases where it didn’t work out that way…. Just even making it to the second round of the competition was entirely overwhelming. It’s the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m enthralled to see where it goes.

Here’s how Weishaar and co-designer Sabin Howard, a veteran sculptor, explained the concept of “The Weight of Sacrifice”:

The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.

Imagining of the central wall in the memorial, with a soldier standing at attention
Part of the 137-foot wall planned for the memorial – WWI Centennial Commission

About $1 million has been raised for the memorial, expected to cost anywhere from $30-$40 million (all in private funds — here’s how to donate). It’s hoped that construction will conclude in time for the 100th anniversary of the November 11, 1918 armistice that ended fighting on the Western Front.

Our own Prof. Chris Gehrz wrote about “The Weight of Sacrifice,” the four other finalists, and the larger WWI commemorative tradition in a recent essay for Books & Culture.


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