What will the memorials of the future look like? "Climate Chronograph," the competition winner, would disappear over time as water levels rise in Washington, D.C. (Azimuth Land Craft)
What will the memorials of the future look like?
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Take a walk through Washington. You'll find plenty of marble memorials 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, co-sponsored by the National Park Service, National Capital Planning Commission and the Van Alen Institute recently were announced. 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.
 
As Michelle Z. Donahue reported for Smithsonian.com earlier this summer, 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 and four finalists were selected 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 about how to think of memorials in a dramatically different future.
 
Climate Chronograph was the winning project by Team Azimuth Land Craft (San Francisco-based 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, 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 as the climate changes. Climate Chronograph will memorialize those changes. Cherry trees will be planted as a kind of tidal gauge. Future visitors will 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 mention projects included a project that unleashes mechanical parrots. These would fly over the Jefferson Memorial and collect and retell stories about monuments. Another project was a podcast platform that puts immigrant stories on public transportation. And another was an interactive memorial that brings national parks to the D.C. Metro. The competition also produced a report that points to ways America can better memorialize the things that matter - 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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What has changed that will influence the look of future monuments?
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COMMENTS (6)
  • adamk-pav
    9/20/2016 - 09:56 a.m.

    I think that new monuments and such are a nice addition to what we have now. It's a new way to honor and respect memorials. I think that it is awesome to have new memorials.

  • kirstenw-pav
    9/20/2016 - 10:00 a.m.

    Memorials are made to stand for something, represent something important that has happened. Even though, memorials are built thoroughly, people in the future want to make sure memorials last for as long as possible in one piece.

  • jackies-pav
    9/20/2016 - 10:01 a.m.

    I would personally prefer if the design of the memorials stayed the same. The marble statues around Washington D.C. clearly depict important events from the past. They are perfectly fine the way they are, and they helped to shape the kind of place that Washington D.C. is. When people think of the District, they think of historical buildings and statues that stand within it.

  • genm-pav
    9/22/2016 - 10:02 a.m.

    I think that future monuments may change by having to get bigger because of all the terrorism now. Also I think that the monuments could be bigger because of all the new technology we have now and because we can transport more things at a time. I'm also pretty interested in how future monuments could look and how they would change.

  • lukeh-orv
    9/30/2016 - 11:15 a.m.

    I would personally prefer if the design of the memorials stayed the same. The marble statues around Washington D.C. clearly depict important events from the past. They are perfectly fine the way they are, and they helped to shape the kind of place that Washington D.C. is. When people think of the District, they think of historical buildings and statues that stand within it.

  • jourdanc-
    4/06/2017 - 08:45 a.m.

    the world I guess.

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