Post: Moore Writes ‘Bridging the Difference On Memorials And the Mall’

Dear Coalition Friends:

In an essay published in yesterday’s (Sunday, November 9th) Washington Post on the “Close to Home” page, local architect Arthur Cotton Moore offered a novel approach to future memorializing on the Mall (see below).

His statement in paragraph 2 that “Congress does not seem persuaded” by the National Capital Planning Commission’s ban on future memorials on the Mall requires clarification – in light of HR1442 passed last week by Senate and House. The bad news is that HR1442 authorizes an underground educational center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a project the Coalition has consistently opposed. The good news is that the bill calls for a ban on the construction of any future commemorative works or visitor centers on the Mall, giving the weight of law to NCPC’s moratorium policy, as reported in the Washington Post on November 7th:

Bridging the Difference On Memorials And the Mall

Sunday, November 9, 2003; Page B08

Patricia E. Gallagher’s Oct. 19 Close to Home piece about the national Mall, which responded to Judy Scott Feldman’s Sept. 28 Close to Home piece, extended a long-running debate about putting more memorials there.

After the controversy over the World War II memorial and the proposal to build an interpretive center near the Vietnam Memorial as well as a memorial to former president Ronald Reagan, well-intentioned people have voiced a chorus of dissent about any more memorializing. In response, the National Capital Planning Commission has banned consideration of any other memorials for the Mall, but Congress does not seem persuaded.

Indeed, if you ask people in Fort Wayne, Ind., or Columbus, Ga., as I have, “Should we have more memorials on the national Mall?” the answer always comes back “yes.” The sentiment is that if memorials don’t belong in the symbolic heart of the nation, then why maintain such an elaborate place?

Perhaps the answer is to expand the idea of what can be a memorial. Pierre L’Enfant never envisioned the lines of automobiles that now push across his great greensward at several points, but there they are. Suppose the next 10 monuments or memorials did something about that by taking the form of bridges over the Mall at Third, Fourth, Seventh, 14th and 17th streets. That would separate the commuters from the visitors who are trying to enjoy the Mall without becoming hood ornaments.

Each bridge could provide the armature for an individual commemorative design. Bridges such as the Charles Bridge in Prague show how statues, sculptures and plaques can be incorporated into bridges as memorials.

Imagine being able to stroll on a Mall made whole from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, a barrier-free, continuous place of contemplation and enjoyment, safe and uninterrupted. Memorials are expensive. For the vast sum expended, bridges could be positive additions for the city with value well beyond the intrinsic value of the memorial itself.

They would be memorials on the Mall that everyone could enjoy.

— Arthur Cotton Moore
is a Washington architect.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

 

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