By Jenny Ung | Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON — The first world war, which claimed the lives of more than 116,000 U.S. troops, will finally get its memorial in the nation’s capital in a concept designed in part by a Chicago architect in training.
The winning design, announced Tuesday by the World War I Centennial Commission, is called “The Weight of Sacrifice.”
The memorial will be located on Pershing Park, one block away from the White House, said Edwin Fountain, the commission’s vice chair.
Chicago’s Joe Weishaar submitted the winning design in collaboration with Sabin Howard, a New York sculptor. It features a freestanding sculpture on the lawn and will create a continuous space, Fountain said.
Weishaar earned an architecture degree at the University of Arkansas in 2013 and now works at Brininstool + Lynch in Chicago.
Pershing Park includes a statue of John Pershing, the top commander of U.S. forces in the war, a fountain and a pond.
The World War I Centennial Commission reviewed 360 design entries, and cut that list to five finalists.
The committee considered multiple factors to pick the winner, said Libby O’Connell, a governance group member of the commission. Some designs posed problems with handicap access and security, which is critical given its close proximity to the White House. The committee also wanted to maintain the sight lines down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
There’s no deadline for finishing the memorial, but the commission would like to mark the 100th anniversary of the war’s end on Veteran’s Day 2018, Fountain said. The commission wants to have design approval by the end of this year or early 2017 and to break ground by the end of 2017, he said.
Fountain said the commission is planning for a $30 to $40 million budget for the memorial.
“We’ve tried to be realistic about what can be raised and what’s appropriate for the site,” Fountain said. “We think the site does call for a more simple and elegant design, which hopefully translate into a less expensive [cost].”
The World War I Centennial Commission was established by the 112th Congress, with support from former House speakers Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, Fountain said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said the only time the Allied leaders of World War I publicly honored those who served was in 1921. While there is the Liberty Memorial honoring World War I veterans in Kansas City, Missouri, Washington needs one of its own, Cleaver said.
“Human beings don’t always remember the days, but we do remember events,” Cleaver said. “This was an opportunity to make sure that we preserve the memory of the occasion of the first World War.”