For families whose ancestors fought in World War I, the new memorial in the Nation’s Capital was a long time in the making. Until 2021, it was the only major war from the 20th century that did not have a national memorial in the nation’s capital. Located adjacent to the White House South Lawn with views of the Washington Monument and National Mall, a reflection pool and 60-foot-long by 10-foot-high bronze sculpture—the largest in the Western hemisphere—serve as the centerpiece of the new National World War I Memorial. This urban park provides space for reflection and commemoration.
Social—The memorial honors all 4.7 million Americans who served in WWI, regardless of gender or race and is completely wheelchair accessible, including accessible parking adjacent to the site. The $42 million project reconstructed the previous Pershing Park, named in honor of General John J. Pershing who commanded American forces on Europe’s Western Front. The park had fallen into disrepair; the new memorial restored the park, incorporated an existing statue of General Pershing, and added the WWI memorial elements. An augmented realty app called The WWI Memorial Virtual Explorer provides a walk-around-inside-it digital 3D model of the memorial to those using iOS or Android tablets, along with links to interactive WWI history experiences.
Environmental—VHB provided site engineering for the project that included a stormwater management solution that will collect harvested rainwater for irrigation of all new plantings associated with the new memorial, while also reducing stormwater runoff. The park is also located within the greater DC’s metro network, making it accessible via multiple venues of mass transit.
Economic—Located in a prominent area of Washington, DC, the memorial is part of a larger network of parks, museums, and memorials throughout the District that attract millions of visitors each year. Over the years, the park had become an underutilized urban space that had fallen into disrepair. With the incorporation of the World War I Memorial, the new vibrant and sustainable space attracts locals and visitors for gathering, mediation, contemplation, and unwinding, and improves connectivity within the District.