The Making Of A Memorial

Memorials are opportunities to include in one location the memories and emotions of events and sacrifices that span generations.

There is much to consider when designing a memorial.

Memorials are also the most daunting work a designer will take on. Still, it is the work that we as landscape architects often find the most rewarding.

The Client

Sometimes the client is a government entity, but more often the client is a “not-for-profit” organization that may or may not have Internal Revenue Service 501(c)3 status. The client generally has an emotionally charged vision, but no idea how to realize that vision. This poses many challenges.

Generally, the client or group–if not-for-profit–lacks funding and knowledge of fundraising. Thus, the designer/landscape architect is often charged–with little or no money–with creating a graphic that portrays that vision for fundraising purposes.

Often an early design concept may or may not be suitable for actual construction. For example, when working on the Anchorage Fireman’s Memorial, a pro-bono graphic was created and used to raise funds for the memorial. This 6-hour endeavor tried to quickly capture the emotions portraying the sacrifices of the first responders to fire and other emergencies.

The image was useful in the fundraising, but when it was time to actually design the memorial, the concept proved much too complex for the “job-training” labor force, and a new design had to be sold to the client.

Clients are often naïve with respect to working with design professionals, and are unfamiliar with the design process, and more specifically with the cost of design services. This can lead to scheduling and budgeting problems.

Often, clients are very free in committing to work that exceeds the contract, and the designer must be careful to ensure that the committee/committee chair understands the cost that each element of the work entails.

Also, be aware the actual authority for the work may rest in a public agency–not the client–and the authority needs to be defined so there is no confusion among the designer, the client, and the agency.

The Vision

Often, the vision is closely held by one or more individuals in the group. In a proposed veterans’ memorial project, tremendous differences of opinion surfaced regarding what was appropriate for the memorial.

Would the design encompass all service members, providing niches and locations for honoring individual service arms, and military divisions within those arms?

Would the memorial recognize women separately or perhaps members of the “Alaska Territorial Guard,” a division of primarily native members?

Or, should it provide a simple statement, allowing a broad and personal interpretation?

A memorial should offer unique and personal experiences for each visitor.

Responsibility for resolving the vision finally was given to a carefully composed Blue Ribbon Task Force, including Purple Heart veterans, a retired General-rank officer, community leaders, and neighborhood activists.

With the unquestioned contributions of this honorable group, the community process allowed a vision to surface that provided a memorial that was simple, but allowed for personal interpretation.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Making A Place For A Memorial
  2. Flight 93 Memorial Opens
  3. Design Incorporates MLK’s Vision
  4. MLK Memorial Dedication
  5. Memorial Honors Flight 93
  • Columns
  • Departments
  • Issues