DAVID RUBIN Land Collective was selected by the United States World War I Centennial Commission to assist with the strategic insertion of the National World War I Memorial into Pershing Park, a historic modernist park originally designed by M. Paul Friedberg, located within the Monumental Core of the nation’s Capital. Through a rigorous agency review process, the design gradually took shape while the team found the balance between the historic preservation of a culturally significant urban park and the creation of a National Memorial befitting one of the four major wars of the 20th century. The team persevered through the review process by means of an extraordinary collaboration between the project sponsor, the World War 1 Centennial Commission; competition-winning architect, Joe Weishaar; the architects of record, GWWO Architects; and the agencies with oversight of memorial design, including the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, and The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.
The completed memorial serves dual functions as a landscape of commemoration and as a vibrant, revivified urban oasis within the nation’s capital. The core of the memorial revolves around a triad of focal points within the historic landscape: the existing memorial to John J. Pershing, General of the Armies and Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during WW1, a 58’-4” long high-relief bronze sculpture, “A Soldier’s Journey,” describing the journey of an American Solider departing for, enduring, and returning from war, and a cascading Peace Fountain. A granite-clad belvedere replaces the vacant concession kiosk becoming the interpretive hinge by which visitors discover the commemorative works within the park. A site-wide app with additional interpretive information sets this memorial apart from others as it allows visitors to immerse themselves within levels of information as they learn about the forgotten war and discover how World War 1 changed the world. During the construction process the deteriorated components of the original park was restored, accessible routes were reconstructed to meet current ADA Guidelines, and the soils and plantings were amended and updated to reflect current understanding of soil sciences and to better fit within the character of a memorial setting.