In the coming months, three major landmarks - the Pentagon, the National Museum of American History and the US Capitol - will reveal their newly improved works to the public after years of intense and deliberate construction. In each case, the changes are by no means minor and should represent a sizable influx of interest in sites sometimes taken for granted by locals.
The newest monument/memorial in the metro area will be unveiled this coming September 11th, the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks that befell New York and Washington in 2001. The Pentagon Memorial occupies a 1.93 acre plot at the site of the attack and cost approximately $22 million, with another $10 million in projected costs for maintenance. Funding was provided by the Ford Motor Company, Chrysler LLC, AECOM, CSC, Adobe, Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel, as well as through private donations.
Although several smaller memorials have already been erected in and around the Pentagon (including the America’s Heroes Memorial and a chapel – both in the reconstructed portion of the building where it was struck by American Airlines Flight 77), this will be the first large scale project with individually dedicated cenotaphs to each victim. Those will take the form of cantilevered benches inscribed with the remembered individuals’ names and arranged according to their ages when they lost their lives. The space is to be augmented by a perimeter wall, several fountains and approximately 80 Paperbark Maple trees.
The memorial was designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman of New York, following a design competition initiated at the behest of the government. A press release from the Pentagon Memorial Fund describes this newest addition to the Pentagon landscape as “a place for reflection, remembrance and renewal.”
On a less somber note, the National Museum of American History will reopen its doors on November 21st after a two year, $85 million renovation. The architectural facelift is said to represent not only a change in facade and decorum for the institution, but an extensive reorganization of its collection as well. The design team for the project was led by New York’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and constructed by Turner Construction Company.
The centerpieces of the newly minted museum are to be a brand new sky-lit, five story atrium and an architectural approximation of the Star-Spangled Banner made of 960 glossy, polycarbonate tiles (“the dawn’s early light”) that will be the gateway to the gallery that houses the original flag - Francis Scott Key’s initial inspiration for the song that would eventually become the National Anthem. Another prestigious addition to the museum’s catalog will be an original, handwritten draft of the Gettysburg Address (loaned by First Lady Laura Bush from the White House collection).
The Capitol too is undergoing a new addition to its grounds. Currently under construction on the Capitol’s East Grounds, the new Visitors Center represents the largest ever addition to the building’s original plans in its 215 year history. Measuring in at 580,000 square feet, the RTKL Associates-designed structure is currently projected to cost $554 million, after months of running over budget and behind schedule. The new Hill landmark will finally open its doors to the public on December 2nd – exactly 145 years to the day after construction on the Capitol was officially declared over (and 7 and a half years after the Center broke ground).
Intended to be waiting station for tourists as they await entrance to the Capitol itself, the Visitors Center is meant to also serve as an attraction in its own right. The features revealed so far include a museum, a cafeteria for both visitors and Hill personnel, two theaters and meeting and conference rooms for members of Congress and their various committees.
Measures, such as the choice of new center’s location on the Capitol’s eastern face, were undertaken in order to prevent the construction from detracting from landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plans for the grounds. Trees, fountains and other landscaping accents will be added in order to minimize any visual alterations to one of the few buildings instantly recognizable to all Americans.