WWI jury’s memorial error

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A nearly final rendering of Devin Kimmel’s WWI memorial design. (Kimmel Studio)

The jury of an international competition to design a national memorial for World War I has made its choice, overlooking a beautiful classical proposal in order to select a more modest proposal that, perhaps, will ruffle a lot fewer feathers. The jury may be applauded for the intestinal courage required to deep-six all of the three more overtly modernist proposals. That is small consolation for not selecting the clearly superior design.

In lieu, for now, of writing more extensively this evening on the decision, I here link to my first post about the finalists, which describes and illustrates them all. The winner is the second design I described. But first I described the design of Devin Kimmel, of Kimmel Studio in Annapolis. That post and another in the next day or so caught his eye. He asked me to write some press releases. He later asked me to join his design team in order to write a lengthy description of the proposal, its evolution in Phase II and its purpose for his final presentation to the jury on Dec. 9. He paid me for my work.

I have placed a rendering of the near-final design atop this post because the top is the place it deserved to own in the competition’s final round. I had hoped he’d win for obviously selfish reasons in addition to those having to do with my objective opinion of his design’s merit. I believe that one look at his design and the other finalists’ designs, including the winning entry, will absolve me of any hint of bias in preferring his over theirs. For a classicists such as me there could have been no other choice.

More tomorrow on this. Meanwhile, check out a piece by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post, “America is chock full of World War I memorials, so why build another one?” published a few days before the jury made its choice. It is chock full of absurdities, so I commend it to readers’ entertainment.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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4 Responses to WWI jury’s memorial error

  1. Pingback: The New World War One Memorial in Washington, DC | The Devil of History

  2. Pingback: More on the WWI winner | Architecture Here and There

  3. Not sure what your point is here, Lux old boy. In the first instance I criticized the structure of the competition. In the second instance I praised the structure of the competition. Now I have criticized the decision of the second competition. Is it not allowed for an architecture critic to criticize the result of a competition whose structure he has praised? Patently absurd.

    And what I admitted was not a conflict of interest but the *potential* for a conflict of interest that did not materialize. There’s a big difference. Being hired to write for Kimmel obviously did not influence my preference for his design, which I declared before ever hearing from him.

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  4. lux-et-veritas says:

    I commend you on admitting a clear conflict of interest in this matter. However, may i remind you of your prior WWI memorial accolade vis a vis the Eisenhower – “Unlike the Ike competition, which invited only a few big firms, who did not even have to submit designs before being selected, the competition for the national WWI memorial will be open to modernist as well as traditional entries, as it should be.” DAVID BRUSSAT

    As my sainted mother frequently admonished me, “put on your big boy pants and stop whining, you got what you wanted”. You forgot to “be careful what you wish for, you may just get it”. You, Justin Shubow, the National Civic Art Society, Catesby Leigh et. al. lauded the WWI memorial’s Open competition while vilifying the Eisenhower Memorial. In the final analysis whether open or not made no difference if it didn’t produce the result demanded. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear the WW! selection will unleash a torrent of the same blood sport endured by the Eisenhower.

    I don’t like the winner or any of the other four finalists, but I don’t fault the entrants. They produced exactly what the WWI commission demanded, a “SOMBER” design and they got 350 SOMBER submissions. Lots of blood red fields, trenches, gas masks and sarcophagi. Nothing heroic, patriotic or uplifting in any. At least we were spared a memorial whose entry was graced by the two enormous semi nude figures, a design embraced by Shubow. No doubt a pithy response will be forthcoming, but a bit of humility would be refreshing.

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