What will the memorials of the future look like?
Take a walk through Washington. You'll find plenty of marble memorials. These are rife with statues and staid plaques. But is that what the future of the memorial-rich city holds? If the winners of a new design competition have their way, probably not.
As Jason Sayer reports for The Architect's Newspaper, the memorials of tomorrow don't bear much resemblance to the ones that can be found in the District today.
The winners of the Memorials for the Future design competition recently were announced. The competition was co-sponsored by the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission and the Van Alen Institute. As Sayer reports, the six-month competition challenged participants to rethink memorials for Washington. And, help spark ideas for new types of memorials around the U.S.
Michelle Z. Donahue reported for Smithsonian.com earlier this summer that the competition invited submissions from teams throughout the world. There were 89 teams from eight countries. The teams garnered over 300 participants. Ultimately, 30 semifinalists were identified. From them, four finalists were selected. They were picked by a jury of architects, planners, fine arts experts and Washington stakeholders. Though the memorials selected won't actually be built in the city, they were intended to spark discussion. How should we think of memorials in a dramatically different future?
Climate Chronograph was the winning project. It was produced by Team Azimuth Land Craft. The team included landscape architects Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter. It dramatically departs from memorials as we know them. The project memorializes the bleak legacy of climate change. It proposes a memorial at Hains Point. That's a spot nestled between the Potomac River and Washington Channel. Just 100 years ago, the manmade island was part of the river. It came into existence after the National Park Service decided to turn the confluence of the waters into a tidal basin. That was to protect the nearby National Mall from floods.
Those floods are expected to come more and more often. This would occur as the climate changes. Climate Chronograph would memorialize those changes. Cherry trees would be planted. They would serve as a kind of tidal gauge. Future visitors would be able to determine just how much water levels have risen.
"Nature will write our story, our choices, into the landscape as we face this most vulnerable moment," the team writes in its project brief.
The winning concept may be bleak. But the larger competition is anything but. Honorable mentions included a project that unleashes mechanical parrots. These would fly over the Jefferson Memorial. They would collect and retell stories about monuments.
Another project was a podcast platform. It puts immigrant stories on public transportation. And another was an interactive memorial. It would bring national parks to the D.C. Metro. That is the city's subway system. The competition also produced a report that points to ways America can better memorialize the things that matter. These are strategies that could help cities save money and space.
That's good news. Especially given that D.C.'s iconic Mall has been closed to new construction. The memorials of the future won't just turn collective memories toward the stories of new phenomena and groups like climate change and immigrants. Rather, it seems that they'll make use of space in new, creative ways. No marble needed.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What has changed that will influence the look of future monuments?
Write your answers in the comments section below