CFA 19/JUN/03-3


The Pentagon
Arlington, VA
United States

U.S. Department of Defense
The Pentagon Memorial for the Victims of September 11, 2001
Review Type
Previous Review


Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

During its meeting of 19 June, the Commission reviewed the concept design for the Pentagon Memorial for the Victims of September 11, 2001. The Commission is pleased to advise the Department of Defense on the design of the memorial and has closely followed its development from the initial inception through the competition selection process. While the design concept has been extensively scrutinized by the competition juries and vetted by the families of the victims, the members of the Commission have several major concerns about the durability of some of the elements, possible maintenance problems, and accessibility. The basic concept and organization of the design, utilizing the age of the victims and their location at the time of the tragedy, intrigued the members, but when reviewing the details of the memorial's construction, questions arose regarding the 184 "Memorial Units" as proposed.

The small pools of water under each bench-like unit were deemed problematical on several points, including: the need for a complicated mechanical system to circulate, filter and heat the water; an underwater lighting system (both difficult and expensive systems to keep running); and the necessity to clean daily 184 small individual pools of leaves, trash and gravel that will undoubtably accumulate in them. The members suggested that the design team study alternative methods and materials to achieve the lighting effects they desire without individual pools.

Another detail that will be problematical in the long run is the coating of a "polyester composite matrix-gravel mix" on the memorial units.  Essentially what amounts to gluing stones on the sloped portion of the milled aluminum bench unit not only has technical problems and durability issues, but it seems contrary to the nature of the materials and adds
little to the symbolic intent of the memorial units. A difficult and potentially unsightly detail will have to be developed for the joint where the units slope down to merge with the field of gravel in which they sit. Perhaps it would be best to eliminate the composite coating and just let the units be all metal. A full scale mockup and testing of one of the memorial units will be essential to a successful development of the design.

The members were concerned with the choice of the Paperbark Maple as the primary tree species for the memorial grove. This is a small tree that would provide limited shade to offer the visitor any significant relief from the heat ofWashington's hot summer sun. The leaves are small and may be difficult to clean from the gravel surface of the memorial, not to mention the multiplicity of pools. We recommend this choice be reevaluated and considered in the context of the landscaping for the proposed new secure access lane that will be constructed adjacent to the west side of the memorial.                

Another area of concern is the entrance gateway/introductory space. The preliminary design that was shown for the entrance area may have too many elements, which, collectively, seem overly complicated and detract from the main body of the memorial park. Granted, a designed entrance to the memorial is a necessity, but simplicity will be the key to its success. The old adage "Less is More" should be the governing principle for the design of the memorial's  entrance.

This leads to the issue of public access to the site, which in turn raises the question of public parking. The members understand the complexity of access and the security issues of having public parking near the memorial, but request that in the next submission provisions for parking and directing the public-from both the parking and the Metro Station-to the memorial be included.

In the context of the above comments, it cannot be over emphasized that the issues of long-term durability and ease of maintenance are paramount to the success of any commemorative work. This memorial should be constructed to last as long as the Pentagon itself. Anything less would be considered unworthy of the subject and not acceptable. With these comments and recommendations taken into consideration, the members voted to accept the concept for approval. The Commission and our staff will work with your department and the design team to develop a quality, fitting design for this important memorial, in as timely a fashion as possible. The members look forward to the next submission as the design develops.


David M. Childs, FAlA

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense
Office of the Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

cc: Walker Lee Evey, Program Manager, Pentagon Renovation Office
Michael Yopp, Project Coordinator, Pentagon Renovation Office
Stacie Candrell, Architectural Program, Pentagon Renovation Office
Keith Kaseman
Julie Beckman