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Competition: Native American Veterans Memorial, Washington DC

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has announced an open international contest to design an $8 million USD monument to Native American servicemen and women in Washington DC (Deadline: 9 January)

Open to professionals and students, the two-stage competition seeks proposals for a ‘timeless and inclusive’ national memorial on a prominent site next to the landmark Jones & Jones Architects-designed museum, which opened 13 years ago.

The project will recognise the many Native American people who served in the United States military and have yet to be acknowledged by an official monument. It will be constructed on a 1.7ha site a short distance from Frank Gehry’s contentious Dwight D Eisenhower Memorial, which started on site this month.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

Source: Image by Gryffindor

National Museum of the American Indian

According to the brief: ‘Taking up the charge given by Congress, the NMAI will establish a National Native American Veterans Memorial to give all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.

‘The tribute to Native heroes will be located prominently on the grounds of the NMAI on the National Mall, between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and the US Capitol. When the memorial is constructed, the legacy of the enduring and distinguished service of Native American veterans in every branch of the US military will receive the national recognition it deserves.’

Native Americans have served in every branch of the US military and in every major conflict, receiving many prestigious awards including the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Congressional Medal of Honour.

There are around 31,000 active Native American servicemen and women and a further 140,000 Native American veterans in the United States. The new monument recognising their contribution will be near to the NMAI, which is currently surrounded by sculptures and landscaped gardens.

The museum is an offshoot of the Smithsonian, which opened in 2004 on a large corner site next to the US Botanical Gardens, the US Capitol and the Capitol Reflecting Pool. NMAI is a short distance from Frank Gehry’s competition-winning Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial which broke ground earlier this month after years of design changes.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

The memorial may be created in any position within the NMAI grounds, bounded by Jefferson Avenue and Maryland Avenue, and will be expected to enhance visitors’ experience of the venue.

Proposals will be expected to reflect Native spirituality and the cultural commitment of Native peoples to serve their country, acknowledge the sacrifices of family members, and recognise the important context of the museum and its grounds.

Five finalists will receive around $25,000 USD each and be invited to develop their concepts between late January and May next year ahead of the announcement of an overall winner on 4 July. The memorial is planned to complete in 2020.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 9 January

Contact details

Email: nnavm-questions@si.edu

Visit the competition website for more information

New Zealand War Memorial case study: Q&A with Athfield Architects

The Christchurch-based practice discusses lessons learned creating a memorial  in Hyde Park, London, celebrating the relationship between Britain and New Zealand during the world wars

How did your New Zealand War Memorial in London create a fitting tribute to the two nation’s cooperation?

The memorial marks a New Zealand place in central London where New Zealanders and Britons can gather to quietly reflect and (re)discover stories from a collective past- or celebrate together on formal occasions such as ANZAC, or Armistice day.

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

The sculptures take the form of inclined cruciform-shaped standards set in the ground like pou whenua around Maori ancestral sites, Celtic stone formations- or like a group of warriors performing a haka.

The tops of the standards are cut at a diagonal plane from south to north revealing, from a distance, a series of crosses ‘hanging in the air’ over the formation. Some of the standards are configured and lit in a manner that recall the Southern Cross constellation when viewed from the south.

On closer inspection the patinad bronze surface of the standards are textured and scored with modelled icons, imagery and text, selected and interpreted in bronze to recall histories and stories from New Zealand and its shared culture with Britain.

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

What advice would you have to contest participants on creating a new memorial for Native American veterans in Washington DC?

  • Make a place, not an object…
  • Evoke memory and activity on multiple levels…avoid presumption on how different people might relate or use the place.
  • Form a design framework for dialogue and progressive layers over time.
  • Create opportunities for engagement from varying proximities and speeds.
  • Make it a place to come back to…

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

New Zealand War Memorial by Athfield Architects

Q&A with Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

The museum discusses its ambitions for the contest

Where did the idea of a new memorial come from?

In 1994, Congress passed legislation authorizing NMAI to create a National Native American Veterans Memorial (NNAVM) to give ‘all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of service of Native Americans in the Armed Forces of the United States.’ In 2013, Congress amended the legislation to permit the memorial to be located on the grounds of NMAI and to allow NMAI to raise funds to support the creation of the memorial. Taking up the charge given by Congress, this permanent tribute to Native military patriotism will be prominently located adjacent to the United States National Mall, home to other renown memorials such as the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

Why are you keen for international participation in the project?

The story of the exceptional military service of Native Americans is not just an American story. Their service, heroism, and valour are not confined to the borders of the United States. Thousands of American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Native Alaskans died outside the United States while liberating non-US counties and citizens. In fact, hundreds are buried overseas in France, Belgium, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and even Africa.

Why is it important for judges to choose from a range of projects?

We seek the widest range of applications from the largest possible pool of ideas, designs, abilities, and creativity to choose the best memorial design possible.

What is your vision for the new memorial?

The origins of the vision and design principles are the extensive community consultations conducted by the committee and museum. These discussions determined that the memorial should honour the

interrelated elements of culture, spirituality, sacrifice, place, valour, healing, future service members, and the legacy of veterans past. Design concepts should address balance, inclusivity, respect, sustainability, endurance, accessibility, and interpretation of memorial elements.

What facilities or aesthetics might it provide?

The site for the memorial will be on the grounds of the NMAI. The challenge to competition participants is to select a location on the grounds that enables their proposed memorial to best achieve the vision and design principles while adhering to the project specifications.

How big are is contest site and what are the potential planning constraints?

The 4.25-acre site includes the building and its surrounding landscape, which is considered an extension of the building and an integral part of the museum as a whole.

How important will architectural innovation and quality be to the end result?

The memorial design concept selected through this competition will be the one that best embodies the vision and design principles created through the community consultations.

Are sustainable issues an important part of the brief?

Sustainability is listed as one of the critical design concepts.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This design competition is an open, international competition, accessible to professionals, university-level students, and other interested people over the age of 18. A participant may be an individual, a team of individuals, or a firm.

Is the opportunity open to smaller emerging practices and undiscovered talents?

Yes.

Could architects make their names on these projects?

The location of the memorial near the United States National Mall provides the NNAVM access to the more than 25 million people annual visitors.

Should smaller firms team up with bigger practices to apply?

Stage II participants may need to form a design team, including the necessary disciplines with required licensure, to complete the design development and documentation required to execute the project.

 

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