The National Mall Has Lost a Friend in W. Kent Cooper

The National Mall Coalition is mourning the passing of longtime board member W. Kent Cooper, FAIA (1926 – 2018).

W. Kent CooperW. Kent Cooper’s brilliance as an architect was recognized early in his career when he was invited by Eero Saarinen to come to Washington to supervise construction of the highly innovative design for Dulles Airport. He never left the nation’s capital, where his imagination and skills at managing big ideas and big egos led him to have a profound impact on two of the most iconic memorials on the National Mall.

As Cooper-Lecky-Architects, CLA, he became Architect of Record for the deeply moving, yet controversial Vietnam Memorial, conceived by the inspired Maya Lin, then a student at Yale. And soon after he was commissioned to lead the design team and build the Korean War Memorial, commemorating “the forgotten war” that claimed well over a million lives and involved a dozen nations.

Over the years the firm did several hundred projects, many for the White House, the Vice-President’s House, and Blair House – the President’s Guest House, as well as multiple schools, museums, houses, government interior projects, and universities.

After 2000, when Cooper closed his firm, his affinity for the National Mall only grew stronger. He became a long-time member of the National Mall Coalition Board, often testifying on Capitol Hill on Mall issues and becoming an enthusiastic champion of an expanded “3rd Century Mall” and a new National Mall Commission. He was a key player in the Coalition’s 2005 Designing for Democracy charette at the Corcoran Gallery of Art where six architects presented visionary concepts for the Mall of the future.

Not only has The National Mall Coalition lost a friend, but, indeed, so has the Mall itself and the millions of visitors from all over the world who revere it and have made it The Stage for our Democracy.