The Weight of Sacrifice
25-year-old U of A Graduate to Design WWI Memorial in D.C.
A phone call from the Chicago Tribune in January was the tip off: Joe Weishaar, a 25-year-old University of Arkansas alumnus, learned from a reporter that he had prevailed in an international design competition that drew more than 350 other entries.
“It’s almost impossible to describe how much this is going to change my life,” he said. “Moving forward, this will be a big transition.”
Weishaar, a 2013 graduate of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and the Honors College, has been selected to design the first national World War I Memorial located in Washington D.C. His project, titled “The Weight of Sacrifice,” will be located in Pershing Park, just yards from the White House grounds on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is hoped that the memorial will be ready by November 11, 2018 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of the Great War.
Brothers in Arms
He said the public competition’s magnitude intrigued him. “I thought: I could definitely do this.”
A project architect and intern at Brininstool+Lynch in Chicago, Weishaar worked nights and weekends on his design proposal. “The Weight of Sacrifice” calls for the creation of a raised central lawn supported on three sides by walls, each cubic foot of which represents a U.S. soldier who died in the war: 116,516 in all. The walls will feature bas-relief sculptures of scenes from the war, punctuated by quotations from politicians and soldiers.
The plan also calls for a freestanding sculpture that is “still on the boards,” Weishaar said.
Edwin Fountain, vice chair of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, praised Weishaar’s proposal as “a very intriguing design, in that it combines both classical and modernistic elements … in its approach to landscape it takes a fairly modernist landscape design, it’s very orthogonal, it uses open planes, but in the memorial elements, they’re very neoclassical.”
That classical/modern hybrid informed Weishaar’s strategy from the get-go: “The landscape design is very modern, recognizing elements of the existing park,” he said. “The sculpture has taken on a very classical look and feel, to relate to the time period of the war. Also, very figural sculptures are going to tell the story a lot better than the abstract figures. I really hope the design will win over both crowds – the classicists and the modernists.”
World War I Memorial artist concepts
Weishaar adopted a collaborative approach to get the job done. After being selected as one of five finalists in August, he turned to veteran New York City sculptor Sabin Howard for assistance in developing his design. “He dropped all of his other work to sign on, and he’s one of the best neoclassical sculptors in the country, if not the world,” Weishaar said. Others included on the professional design team are the Baltimore architectural firm GWWO Inc.; Phoebe Lickwar, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Arkansas; and engineering consultants Henry Adams LLC, Keast & Hood and VBH.
Weishaar is quick to credit his professional architectural training and honors studies at the University of Arkansas in preparing him for this monumental task. “I couldn’t have done this project without my experience at the U of A, in no way, shape or form,” he emphasized. Thanks to support from an Honors College Academy Scholarship and an Arkansas Governors Distinguished Scholarship, Weishaar traveled the world. He studied landscape design and urban space in the Fay Jones School’s Mexico Urban Studio, and his second place win in the 2011 Lyceum Fellowship Competition also funded urban studies in the University of Arkansas Rome Center and points across Europe.
“This helped me understand what urban space means to people around the world,” he said.