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Memorials for the Future

The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute collaborated on Memorials for the Future, an ideas competition to reimagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials.

Memorials enshrine what we as a society want to remember. But the places, people, and stories that we memorialize, and the audiences who engage with them, are in fact constantly changing. A memorial tells its story through subject matter and design. This story is often complex and multi-dimensional as a memorial’s interpretive elements embody ideas of identity, culture, and heritage, and each have intensely personal interpretations for every individual.

Fall 2016, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – a living memorial – hosted an exhibition that reimagined the nation’s future memorials and celebrated the Memorials for the Future competition’s finalist teams.

Van Alen Institute has worked with NPS and NCPC to develop a series of key findings for the Memorials for the Future competition. The full report is available here. For a summary of findings, please see the slideshow below.

Climate Chronograph
Members: Erik Jensen, Rebecca Sunter
A platform for witnessing rising seas, the Climate Chronograph is a living observatory for an unfolding global story. As seas rise, cherry trees die in place, becoming bare branched delineations of shorelines past. Over a lifetime, a visitor will experience the same place in its ever-changing condition, a legible demonstration of generational-paced change. This new memorial is continually becoming, and in doing so offers a new approach to monumentality. A light human hand sustainably initiates a profound pastoral meditation. This landscape chronograph marks both our vulnerability and our response. It records the challenges before us.
Climate Chronograph’s final report is available here.
Honorable Mention for Marrying the Ephemeral and Iconic
American Wild
Members: Forbes Lipschitz, Halina Steiner, Shelby Doyle, Justine Holzman
American Wild virtualizes the National Parks through an interactive, immersive installation. Using ultra-high-definition video, recordings of each 59 natural parks can be projection-mapped at full scale. Audio recordings heighten the visceral experience and establish emotional connections to the landscape. The memorial democratizes National Park access by creating an installation in one of the most economically and racially diverse neighborhoods in the nation’s capital. Full scale, immersive environment design expands access to both phenomenological experience and ecological understanding. In so doing, the memorial reinvigorates the ways in which we interact with the cultural and biological diversity of the American landscape.
American Wild’s final report is available here.
Honorable Mention for American Heritage and Community
The IM(MIGRANT) : Honoring the Journey
Members: Radhika Mohan, Sahar Coston-Hardy, Janelle L. Johnson, Michelle Lin-Luse
The experience of movement and migration is the elemental experience of what it means to be an American. Leaving home, hopeful and expectant, and meeting hostility and kindness, misunderstanding and acceptance. Overcoming obstacles fueled by ambition and resourcefulness. Making a new home among people familiar and strange. Immigrant experiences, including those of native peoples, are at the foundation of the national psyche. They are also experiences that divide our country and have been a part of our political debate since the country’s founding. The IM(MIGRANT) is a proposal that responds to these ideas, reinforcing core American beliefs by unfolding and commemorating the varied journeys that grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and strangers have taken through the landscape of Washington, DC. It offers the visitor access to the experience of movement, of arrival, and of making a new home.
The IM(MIGRANT)’s final report is available here.
VOICEOVER’s final report is available here.

• Marcel Acosta, Executive Director, National Capital Planning Commission
• Mark Gardner, Principal, Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects
• David van der Leer, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
• Thomas Luebke, Commission Secretary, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
• Jonathan Marvel, Principal and Founder, Marvel Architects
• Julie Rhoad, President & CEO, The NAMES Project Foundation
• Deborah Rutter, President, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
• Kirk Savage, Professor, History, Art, and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
• Jason Schupbach, Director of Design Programs, National Endowment for the Arts
• Erik E. Shaw, Director, District of Columbia Office of Planning
• Gay Vietzke, Superintendent, National Mall and Memorial Parks, National Park Service