After years of wrangling, World War I memorial raised the first flag

Washington – Monuments for the 20th century war are among the central attractions in the nation’s capital. So it has always been notable that one of the most consequential American conflicts, the First World War, was a lack of national recognition.

as now The United States retreated from its longest warA memorial, which recognizes one of its most complex ones, was officially opened in Washington on Friday, after years of confrontation between conservationists, urban planners, federal officials and the commission that realized its construction.

The first flag was raised at the memorial in Pershing Park, near the White House – along the National Mall, where many supporters imagined – once used for office skating, cocoa sips and midday sandwich nibbling. . The crepe sat under myrtles. Fights on the location, accuracy and scale of the monument have been part of its journey.

“Our aim was to build a monument that stands shoulder to shoulder with other monuments and elevate the American consciousness in World War I,” said Edwin L. Fountain, vice-president of the First World War Centenary Commission at the same time. Unlike those memories, it should be a memorial and an urban park. “

The only original node for the war in the park, a statue of General John J. Pershing, who commanded American expeditionary forces in Europe, would remain on the edge of space. But the central focus of the monument is a large wall that will hold its final feature: a 58-foot bronze statue that is either a bold testament to the mission’s importance or a different perspective from its natural setting, which depends on the approach .

The design, restoration of the original park and construction of the new monument will cost $ 42 million; The commission has $ 1.4 million left to raise.

The sculpture, “A Soldier’s Journey”, tells the story of an American passage from a reluctant service member returning to a war hero through a series of 38 figures. They convey the story of the country’s transformation from a separatist to a leader on the world stage, with one final visual reference to the next major war. The piece travels from New York to New Zealand to the Cotswolds in England, to include live models in period dress and thousands of iPhone photos and other technology.

Critics – many of whom fought Mr. Fountain’s concept with every tactic available – say the structure falls short of marrying a monument with a big dream in a historically significant park.

“The real question is: Does the monument take advantage of the power of the place in which it now resides?” Charles A., president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Said Birnbaum, who tried to include the park in the National Register of Historic Places, which truncated the monumental planners’ plans. “Was it successful in integrating itself into a place in a federal city that is unique in serving tourists and residents?”

Park, whom m. Designed by Paul Freedberg, A. Leading landscape architect, And was built in 1981, since the time the ground was broken for the monument 2017. A popular ice skating ring closed in 2006 due to mechanical issues and never reopened; Its nooks and cranes were littered with litter and pigeons that favored eating it.

This was not, in fact, anyone’s first pick for the memorial site. Controversies of a very Washington nature confused the efforts.

Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, The memorial effort took years to expand Before retiring at the National Mall. Congress considered converting the District of Columbia War Memorial into a national monument, at the end of the mall. This was strongly opposed by Washington officials, as did Missouri lawmakers who did not want competition for the National World War I museum and memorial in Kansas City. The Interior Department was also not keen on the project.

in 2014, Congress decided on Pershing Park. In 2016, Joseph Weicher, a 25-year-old architect, and Sabin Howard, a classicist sculptor in New York, were selected to create the monumental sculpture after winning a design competition.

“I was doing very mythical, classical male figurative sculpture derived from Hellenistic art,” Mr. Howard said. “Neither of us was ready. This is just insanity. You are entering this process which can take away 15 years of your life. “

But given the location of the monument, the pace certainly accelerated on the National Mall, despite numerous reviews by the United States Commission of Fine Arts and other federal agencies.

Mr. Howard began renting the model in 2016 – as well as his daughter Medellin, who played the young girl in the sculpture – who wore period clothes and acted out battle scenes, as she spent 12,000 on her iPhone in a studio Pictures were taken. In the South Bronx. The project continued in New Zealand, where Mr. Howard used specialized technology to produce film props to create the first mock-up for the commission to review.

Subsequently, he and his models packed for the Cotswolds, where they used a specialized foundry to begin their sculpture work, which is now being completed at their studio in Englewood, NJ.

Mr. Howard said that he was educational as well as appealing to the sculpture. “My client said, ‘You have to make something that pretends to be a World War I in which visitors would go home and learn more about it,” he said.

Accuracy gave way to artistic license. This piece, depicting Black, Latino and Native American soldiers, blurs reality. In Meeting with Commission in 2018, Tony Griffin, a member, said that black soldiers did not usually fight with white soldiers in World War I, as shown, and suggested that “the sculpture should portray an authentic experience,” meeting. According to minutes from.

While Mr. Howard asked for the black soldiers’ helmets to be replaced, he said he was unfazed by the broader argument. “You had segregation in the army” he said in an interview. “However, on the battlefield, there is no distinction.” In this way, even though black soldiers were portrayed in a way that was historically incorrect, they said, “They were required to behave similarly.”

In one notable coincidence, the memorial is opening to visitors during an epidemic not unlike the flu outbreak that killed thousands of soldiers in the trenches during the war. “The flu was not on my mind,” Mr. Howard said. “What was on my mind was done for human-human upliftment.”

Long-term criticism of the monument is unlikely given that many monuments in Washington focus on war and death.

“There are stories that have been marginalized, which can be celebrated and are daring tales of the reality of the war experience that can honor sacrifice more effectively,” Phoebe Likvar, one of the early stages of the project Was a landscape architect. “Instead, we are presented with a trait tale and battle glory.”

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