pennsylvania veterans memorial

indiantown gap, dauphin county, pennsylvania

memorials and competitions 

 

The Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial was the subject of a statewide design competition, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial Commission, for the design of a memorial to honor all Pennsylvania Veterans of all time.  Cee Jay Frederick Associates won the competition and was awarded the contract for the site and architectural design and documentation of The Memorial, inclusive of detailed site selection. The Memorial is located at the Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Annville, Pennsylvania.  It is to be a place of rest and peace (not an homage to war), a place where one can reflect on the services and sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and women, and coast guardspersons who have contributed so much to the State of Pennsylvania and the Nation.  The Memorial is intended to acknowledge and indeed build fundamentally on the continuity of the tradition of service from colonial days to the present.  The Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is used for three large-scale memorial services each year.  The Memorial would become an integral part of those services, but, like the rest of the Cemetery, it is also visited on a daily basis for funeral ceremonies.  This aspect of the program for its use required the provision of restrooms.  In addition, in response to its overall use and identity, a casual amphitheater, a memorial path, a flag plaza, and an appropriate scheme for landscaping needed to be provided.  

 

The format for the existing Administration Building at Indiantown Gap, which is designed as the ruins of a Pennsylvania stone barn, suggested the opportunity to build upon its image so as to make the entire landscape of the cemetery the “memorial”.  To that end, the Memorial, designated as a "roofless church," focuses upon symbolic values as it embodies an identifiable iconic architectural image (the ruins of a church) as part of the Pennsylvania landscape (analogous to the barn form mentioned above).  Thus, it has been strategically situated atop a relative high point in close proximity to the Administration Building in order to convey the visual image of an overall landscape which might be the result of war.  Working together, these elements are seen to represent the hollow, empty realities of war.  In essence, the area is to be perceived as a landscape of reality and ruins. The building form is thus intended, even from a distance, to begin to evoke a sense of solemnity in preparation for the response to loss experience which will likely take place within, bonding the visitor spiritually with those who have fought, and even died, for all of us. The transition from the landscape outside to the building within is seen as movement to an ideal state; that is, a place within characterized by the peace and tranquility, which those veterans to whom the Memorial is dedicated have achieved through their lives and sometimes deaths.

 

Consequently, the architecture within is simple, peaceful, harmonious, and idealized in format.  It contains the elements of air, land, and water representative of the "battlefields" upon which the veterans fought. The trees are placed in an idealized arrangement, reminiscent of the columns needed to support the church "roof," and are available to provide relief from a potentially oppressive sun.  The pools of water, symbolic of the earth’s oceans, are flat tranquil overflowing sheets of water provided to mask any intrusive noise from without.  A tomb for all soldiers, "known" or "unknown," is strategically placed (like an altar, bima, or kaaba) at the beginning of an apse mindful of the sacrifices shared by the veterans.  Characteristic of death, from which there is no exit, the apse turns around on itself to provide an amphitheater, and refocuses the visitor upon the essence of his/her spiritual experience, while providing a glimpse of past reality as typified in the seven flags - United States, State of Pennsylvania, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Cost Guard -- that flank it.  At the exterior, immediately adjacent to the building inscribed white stone markers define a “faux cemetery”. To be sure, the Memorial is a proper place within which one may offer devotion to those men and women who risked and sometimes gave their last full measure so that we may all live free.

 

interior design

 

As an interior design exercise this project was most limited, given its own unique identity.  To that end, the “rooms” addressed include only the entry/lobby, which is really an outdoor non-climate controlled space, and the men’s and women’s restrooms.  The designs for both are austere in nature given the purely functional aspect of the latter and the transitional and temporal character of the former.  The design aesthetic for both is one that draws upon the outdoor nature of The Memorial, particularly in the use of materials, as represented in the use of granite for not only the floors and portions of the walls of the spaces, but also the restroom stall partitions and doors.  Every aspect of the restrooms, except the fixtures, themselves, was custom designed, including the hardware and attachment fasteners and covers.  Memorial inscriptions are part of the floor texture and continue the faux cemetery into the “building”.   

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