“Visible from the Capitol by both day and night, this memorial reminds lawmakers of the peril into which they often send the armed forces, many of whom return with traumas visible and otherwise. On its triangular site opposite the US Botanic Garden, minimal structures in granite and glass form linear edges around a star-shaped fountain with a central flame; beyond the etched glass wall, a mix of ginkgo and cypress trees effectively inhabit a green roof, forming a contemplative grove that also buffers noise from the highway over which the memorial sits. The low fountain and reductive footprint maximize views and accessibility, allowing those veterans whom war most effects to experience this memorial to their sacrifice.”
– 2020 Awards Jury
Of the innumerable challenges that face America’s veterans, among the most fundamental is their difficulty in being seen for who they are and what they’ve been through. The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial (AVDLM) honors our veterans across generations and military branches, recognizing the permanent disabilities that service women and men have suffered on behalf of our freedom. This setting is distinctive in the nation’s capital as a memorial that venerates the living; a place of solace where veterans and citizens can join each other to support our wounded while celebrating their survival. AVDLM ultimately pays tribute to the life and liberty that veteran patriotism affords our countrymen.
▲沉静的时刻：景观设计师为纪念碑赋予了简单的几何造型，以更好地强调光线与色彩的复杂性。脆弱且反光的表面引发着人们去思索自由的代价与回报。A Quiet Hour: The landscape architect designed the simple geometries of the Memorial to give rise to more diffuse complexities of light and color. Fragile and reflective surfaces offer cerebral commentary on the worth and rewards of freedom. © Craig Collins
▲纪念伤残退伍军人的场地：大理石和玻璃墙界定出场地中央带有焰火的反射池，外围是一片银杏树林。到了退伍军人纪念日所在的11月，这片树林将被染成耀眼的金黄色。A Place to Honor Disabled Veterans: A grove of trees surrounds a fire within a reflecting pool, framed by marble and glass walls. The plan for the Memorial highlights the selection of Ginkgoes, which display golden color on Veteran’s Day in November. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲会说话的墙壁：刻有文字的花岗岩墙壁在变化的天色中提供了一个静谧的沉思环境。墙壁与城市环境相衔接，能够阻挡视线和声音上的干扰，同时将人们的目光引向附近的国会大厦。墙上的文字传达了伤残军人的故事与心声。Walls That Speak: Engraved granite walls offer quiet contemplation beneath a changing sky. The walls dovetail with their urban context, screen distracting sights and sounds, and enhance the focus on the nearby Capitol. Quotations capture multiple voices and stories of disabled veterans. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲浴火重生的退伍军人：设计初期的概念拼贴画将国会大厦下的反思与敬重之情融合在一起。火焰作为纪念碑的物理和精神中心，体现着伤痛、失去和重生的意志。Recognizing the Veteran as a Phoenix: An early concept collage stitches together the elements of reflection and honor beneath the Capitol. The fire depicted is the Memorial’s physical and symbolic centerpiece, embodying the elemental forces of injury, loss, and renewal. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲反射水池边的树林：树木象征着神圣的生命力，它们犹如站岗的哨兵一般排列在浅浅的水池边。水面提升了光线的强度，进一步凸显出纪念碑对于牺牲者的重视与感激之意。A Grove Lines the Reflecting Pool: A grove of trees has long been synonymous with sacred life force. The trees stand sentry-like along a shallow pool. Meanwhile, the water increases available light, furthering AVDLM’s mission to illuminate the sacrifices of American service members. © Rena Schild
▲与光影对话：玻璃层压板为具有不同深度的图像和文字提供了变化的视觉效果。玻璃的通透性使参观者的视线得以从四周砖墙的限制中解放出来。Communicating with Light and Shadow: Glass laminate provides opportunities to space imagery and text at different depths to varying effect. These screens are employed as an instrument of disclosure and transparency, liberating vision from the disciplinary confines of surrounding masonry. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲关注退伍军人的体验：严格的设计过程带来了一系列变化。景观设计师最终决定在反射池的北端设置火焰，作为参观者探索之旅的起始点。Designing for the Veterans’ Experience: The rigorous design process resulted in numerous changes. The landscape architect ultimately favored a fire at the northern end of a reflecting pool as a symbol of the place where one begins a journey of discovery. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲“修建”一簇焰火：建筑工人正站在星形喷泉的框架内，从图中可以感受到喷泉的尺度。当有人爬进喷泉时，中央的火焰会自动熄灭。Building a Fire: Construction workers stand within the frame of the star fountain, providing a sense of its scale. If anyone climbs onto the fountain, its fire feature is programmed to automatically turn off. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲水上之火：焰火漂浮在星形喷泉的水面上。从一开始，纪念碑的设计就旨在纪念美国军队的所有分支——以星星的五只“手臂”作为象征。Fire Over the Water, A Celebration of Unlikelihood. Fire floats over water in a star-shaped fountain. When the Memorial was designed, it was the first to commemorate every branch of the American military. Each division is symbolized by an arm of the star. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲纪念碑前的集会：美国伤残退伍军人纪念碑由国家公园管理局负责管理。纪念碑为举办大型活动提供了聚集的空间，并在华盛顿的中心地带创造出舒适和富有凝聚力的场地。Gathering at the Memorial: AVDLM is maintained by the National Park Service’s presence on the National Mall. The Memorial provides room for crowds to gather for large events and offers a place of comfort and unity in the heart of the nation’s capital. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲场所的目的：“你走在这样安静的场地上——驻足于这些男兵和女兵的照片前……某种意义上我们得以与他们共同踏上一段旅程，这旅程讲述着不屈不挠的美国精神。”——巴拉克·奥巴马The Purpose of Place: “You walk these quiet grounds — pause by the pictures of these men and women… and we’re somehow able to join them on a journey that speaks to the endurance of the American spirit.” – Barack Obama ©Disabled Veterans’ Life Memorial Foudation, Inc.
▲从牺牲者中找出自己：一名上尉站在她自己的肖像前——在战争中，她的装甲车被伊拉克的RPG击中。美国伤残退伍军人纪念碑记录了她以及与她同时代的军人的经历，同时向过去、现在与未来的退伍军人表达了敬意。Recognizing Living Sacrifices: A Captain whose Humvee was hit by an RPG in Iraq stands beside her portrait in glass. AVDLM honors her experience along with those of other contemporaries as a living memorial commemorating past, present, and future veterans. ©Cloud Gehshen
▲影响每一代人：美国伤残退伍军人纪念碑所讲述的故事将一直传承下去。左图中的女性在讲述他父亲的故事，印刻在她身后墙壁上的就是她父亲的形象。右图是参观者的照片，这样的情景将延续数代。Reaching Across All Generations: The stories that AVDLM tells are timeless. Left: A woman describes her father, whose image is inscribed in the walls behind her. Right: A photograph of visitors to the Memorial could have been taken yesterday or a generation ago. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲细腻的光影：纪念碑的影像玻璃墙拥有透明、半透明和镜面等多种观感，将天空的色彩、游客的流动、树木的阴影、火焰的温暖光芒和水的反射一层层地叠加起来。An Abundance of Light: The cinematic glass walls of the memorial are transparent, translucent, and mirror-like, multiplying the colors of the sky, movements of visitors, shadows of trees, and the warm glow of the fire and its watery reflections. ©Top: Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.; Bottom: Shalom Baranes Associates
▲场地位置的重要意义：夜晚，纪念碑在国会大厦下熠熠生辉。退伍军人纪念碑基金会希望将该纪念碑设置在立法者的视线范围内，以提醒他们需要对每一位为国牺牲者负起责任。The Significance of Site Location: The Memorial glows beneath the Capitol in the evening. The Disabled Veterans’ Life Memorial Foundation, Inc. wanted to place AVDLM within the sight of lawmakers as a reminder of their responsibility to those who have sacrificed for their country. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
▲心怀感恩：一位女性正站在纪念碑的墙边沉思，环绕着她的还有树木、水面、玻璃与火。In Gratitude: A woman stands in contemplation at the walls of the Memorial, surrounded by trees, water, glass, and fire. ©Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd.
Veterans’ stories often start with trauma and a moment of realization that one’s life has changed. These narratives shift in their particulars but hew to a recognizable pattern, in which the change is not only the loss of a limb or an affliction of the mind but can also call into question a person’s identity. This distinct form of trauma frequently requires care that is as intensive as the diagnosed injury. Despite this, many veterans possess a startling capacity to re-imagine their existence and rise from the ashes of their injuries into a new life. AVDLM is inspired by this resilience, from which the American story also reemerges anew. Acknowledging and sharing these histories in a national memorial offers long-overdue public recognition for the private suffering of our country’s disabled service members.
During the design process, the team compiled stories from thousands of wounded veterans in the form of oral histories, letters, manuscripts, and memoirs reaching back to the Civil War. The landscape architect’s concept for AVDLM, Fire in the Grove, captures the tension of these experiences. The fire depicted is the Memorial’s physical and symbolic centerpiece, embodying the elemental forces of injury, loss, and renewal. The unlikely emergence of this element through water, a timeless symbol of rebirth, is a fittingly beautiful testament to the spirit of survivors. This pairing, located within a grove of trees, speaks to the difficulties that veterans must continue to endure after a war is over.
In order to properly honor these patriots, the Disabled Veterans Life Memorial Foundation, Inc. (DVLMF) fought to secure a site with elevated visibility and prominence amidst Washington’s most revered memorials. The organization worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to secure a site within sight of and a short walk to the Capitol, located on the daily paths of federal employees who make decisions that affect our military and veterans on Capitol Hill.
Inspired by veterans’ stories of vulnerability and strength, the design team created a contemplative urban setting of remembrance and reverence with enduring site elements. The landscape architect centered the design around the memorial flame and star fountain. The five points of the star, a traditional emblem of American arms and national unity, represent five branches of the military. These are also identified by bronze seals set into the paving. It is a central gathering place for family, community, and companions; a beacon in darkness; an emblem of hope. Visible day and night from the Capitol, it draws visitors from the National Mall and offers a solemn reminder of the price of freedom.
The fountain can be run year-round, yet the design accounts for use with or without water and its reflecting pool drains quickly to become a platform for events and rallies. The landscape architect built full-sized mockups to test the dimensions of the 30” high star and 10” high reflecting pool, which are meant to be enjoyed regardless of one’s mode of circulation. Further study went into the development of a pressure-plate safety detection system that is unobtrusively integrated into the design. Its pentagonal granite platform is mounted over a sunken well that surrounds the burner column. This holds a pressure-sensitive plate that triggers a shutdown of the flame should a person attempt to enter the star fountain. Meanwhile, the fountain’s pump room is hidden in the broadest section of memorial wall.
Surrounding all this, a Memorial Grove of 69 ginkgo trees, chosen for their persistence as an ancient species, occupies two-thirds of the site. Their presence is a symbol of healing and provides a blaze of golden color in the autumn around Veterans Day. Supplementing the gingkoes are 23 pond cypresses, selected for their texture and mature size, which are ideal for screening buildings across the street. These trees also support the site’s stormwater needs in a riparian planting bed that captures and filters site water along 2nd Street. Nearby, disease-resistant elms line Washington Street, supporting the streetscape of the surrounding blocks.
Balancing the needs of an open plaza with optimal tree growth, the landscape architect used expansive horticultural soils in a Silva Cell system that allows for 115,000 cubic feet of enriched soil. Soil depth ranges from 3’ to 7’ deep between fragrant shrubs and the grove. Flexipave, a porous paving system approved by NPS, is also used around the trees for easy maintenance.
Three translucent glass walls known as the Voices of the Veterans peak through the trees, set with bronze sculptures, photographic etchings, and inscriptions that the landscape architect collaborated on with an artist. Interweaving visual images of the wounded and their caretakers with experiential, first-person text strengthens the universal narrative and makes their stories accessible to a diverse audience. The glass runs east to west, buffering visitors from the noise of a nearby highway. The landscape architect sited these features to take advantage of the sun’s orientation and pedestrian circulation across the site. In effect, the walls’ appearance changes dramatically with the sun’s movement, offering a cinematic immersion that expresses the ever-changing reflections of visitors, trees, and seasons. In a city flush with inert commemoratives, these walls embody a temporal narrative representative of their subjects.
The 48 frameless glass panels composing the walls are 2 ¼” thick, composed of five layers of glass, and laminated using a liquid polymer. Photographic images and text are cut onto different layers of each panel, offering the imagery additional visual depth. The silhouetted bronze figures, created using a lost wax method, are finished in a green patina that can be approached and touched from the nearby path. Both the glass walls and the bronze statues sit flush to the ground, contained and supported by hidden footings.
To the west, two 12’ high, Bethel White granite walls, called the Wall of Gratitude, separate the site from its neighbors and frame a Capitol view. Quotes by prominent statesmen such as George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower are etched into the walls, commenting on the nation’s debt and gratitude to veterans. The classic materiality of these features’ links AVDLM into the visual language employed by the District of Columbia’s family of monuments.
In Washington DC, it is not unusual for memorial design to take multiple years for completion. For this project, nearly twenty years passed between the memorial’s earliest conception and its dedication by President Barack Obama in October 2014. The landscape architect began in 2002, with a winning entry to an invited 2-stage design competition.
The chosen location at 2nd and Washington Avenue Southwest combines three parcels to make a contiguous triangular site and reintroduce the historic alignment of C Street. On the surface this seemed to be an ideal location, yet it posed significant challenges to the design team. The process was prolonged by 9/11-related security concerns that questioned the proposed road realignment. Extensive studies of vehicular movement around the site eventually reduced its boundary from 2.4 to 1.74 acres and replaced east-west vehicular traffic with a pedestrian path. These changes demanded a reconfiguration of the project’s southern parking lot and the relocation of an existing high security communication fiberoptic line. To maintain handicapped accessibility, 2nd Street was widened, and a lane was added for temporary bus and accessible parking.
After road realignment the site sat over-structure, above a highway tunnel. Its green roof condition demanded extra care; for example, construction had to be staged to prevent the I-395 tunnel ceiling from uplifting during site excavation and construction. Nevertheless, despite the protracted schedule, multiple design changes, and more than 11 formal design agency reviews, the ultimate vision of the Memorial endured.