On the Pentagon 9/11 memorial

September 25, 2008
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A few months back, when blogging about an arts-centric Washington, D.C. visit, I mentioned that one of my most memorable college moments was a spontanious road trip to the city, including a silent midde-of-the-night walk through a tourist-free Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

As I read about the intoduction of the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, I'm thinking again of that moment--the experience of a work of art helping to fuse memory and experience and right now into something powerful.

Read what Witold Rybczynski--an outstanding writer/communicator about architecture--thinks about the Pentagon site at Slate.com.

Throughout the years, there have been extremes of thought about how representational these works should be. Consider the difference between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument (and, for that matter, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). Consider our own Medal of Honor memorial on the canal and the mixed imagery of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

What should we look for in a monument/memorial? Who should it please or engage? Which monuments, locally or nationally, do you think most effectively create or inspire?  

Your thoughts
  • I've grown up with the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and therefore take it a bit more for granted as a great signature landmark than for a memorial. Some of my more pleasant memories of being downtown usually involve eating lunch on its steps. However, other memorials have effected me in a variety of ways.

    I cry every time I've visited the Medal of Honor memorial. There's something about heoroes that get to me.

    The Washington Monument is awe inspiring. Being there invokes feelings of what man can accomplish.

    I was worried about visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Even though I was with my family, I had to approach it on my own. Taking some beautiful photographs kept me somewhat detached (on purpose). But later in the dusk of evening I made a solo return trip. I was sad, but more serene. A sense of importance of individuals participating in history made me glad we have such a perfect memorial for that time.

    I feel that the modern memorial designers have all recognized the importance of emotional involvement - that we all will have our own personal experiences with the memorial. We've grown beyond statues of generals on horseback.
  • I agree with ArtistDan, and would add that I believe it's all about the subject, about who or what is being memorialized.

    I've not seen the Washington or Lincoln monuments in person, but they are imposing and timeless - and awe-inspiring - even in photos. That is in keeping with who they were built for, with what the honorees meant to our country. A memorial to someone of such vast stature should have vast stature of its own.

    I have seen the Murrah building memorial in person, and to me, what is absolutely evident is the emotion connected to that event and to the victims of that tragedy. And that's appropriate, because that memorial is not in honor of life well-lived, but instead of life cut short. Awe-inspiring is not the appropriate take-away for something like that.

    Many designers today seem to understand the distinction, and that bodes well for memorials yet to come.
  • I cry every time I’ve visited the Medal of Honor memorial. There’s something about heoroes that get to me.
  • For those interested in this monumental discussion, check out blake Gopnik's smart piece in today's Washington Post about the impact of subject on monuments.


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