Disabled Veterans Memorial Shines Despite its Location
A new memorial opened last month in D.C., this one honoring Veterans Disabled for Life. I’ve watched its progress from the U.S. Botanic Gardens across the street, and seen it presented to a reviewing agency, so was excited to finally see it open.
Here’s a fun 2-minute video of its construction and finally, dedication, from an overhead camera.
First thing I bet you noticed? The location of the memorial is horrible – basically a traffic island surrounded by major streets and a freeway entrance ramp. Great spots for monuments and memorials are all taken by now, so new ones are being sited off the National Mall (where everyone wants to be) and it’s a plus for the city and people who live/work/visit here because otherwise sites like this would stay horrible.
Instead, it was lovely on day one and will only get better as the grove of cypress and ginkgo trees grows up. The competition-winning designer chosen to create the memorial is Michael Michael Vergason, one of DC’s top landscape architects.
Some interesting info about the landscape from the memorial’s website:
In designing the Memorial grove of 69 ginkgos and 23 cypress trees, Vergason took a close look at the practical factors as well. Since the Memorial rests on top of the I-395 tunnel corridors with a major highway passing underneath, about 115,000 cubic feet of enriched soil will be brought to the site to support the trees and other plants. The soil will be three to seven feet thick, and watered with an underground drip irrigation system. While cypress trees can live under dry conditions, they prefer moister soil than the ginkgos. Therefore, the grove’s soil foundation will include a damper area for the cypresses, with more drainage to dry the soil under the ginkgos.
The pavement for the plaza will be carefully suspended over the soil in order to minimize compaction and promote the uniform growth of the trees. In addition, stone pavers will be placed among the trees, giving visitors an opportunity to wander through the plantings.
“The grove will set the stage for the visitor’s experience,” Vergason said. “The trees’ overhead canopy will create a sense of ceiling, while the dappled light through the leaves and the cooling effect of the plants will contribute to both physical and psychological comfort.”
The urban grove – which makes up more than two-thirds of the 2.4-acre triangular site – includes clipped evergreen hedges that parallel the laminated glass panels whose inscribed words and illustrations tell the story of disabled American veterans. A lower level of plantings, including fragrant shrubs, will also be incorporated into the site, helping to block visitors’ views of the highway to the south.
So, 3-7 feet of soil had to be brought in, and the pavement suspended so as not to compact the soil underneath it. And check out the rubber-looking-but-surely-not material covering the tree boxes.
I’ve emailed Vergason’s firm for more info, so maybe we’ll learn more about that rubber thing. And because I’m a nerd for ground covers, which Carex is this, so nicely massed for effect?
UPDATE: Doug Hays at Vergason tells me they used 1,450 Carex flaxa ‘Blue Zinger,’ 17K Mondo grass, 13K Liriope Muscari, 665 Acorus gramineus, plus ‘Dallas Blue’ switchgrass, Virginia Bluebells, Hellebores, and Autumn Fern. The shrubs are Clethra, Calycanthus, Vernal Witchhazel, ‘Nellie Stevens’ Holly, Va Sweetspire, Northern Bayberry, ‘Gulftide’ Osmanthus, ‘Snowgoose’ Mockorange, Rugosa Rose and ‘Winterthur’ Viburnum. There’s more:
To answer a few of your technical questions, the trees within the plaza are set within a product called ‘Flexi-pave’. It is a 2″ thick porous paving that was acceptable with the National Park Service through a series of trail mock-ups. It is a composition of crushed aggregate, finely shredded tires and a high strength binder. It qualifies for a recycled product. It will be periodically trimmed back from the root flare of the Ginkgo’s as they grow and develop.
Within each tree pit is drip irrigation system. Also, we employed a gravity irrigation system that re-routes water collected from the surrounding bio-infiltration basins and directs water to the entire underground planting soil under the plaza supported by silva cells a product by Deep Root Incorporated.
The trees on the west side of the site are Pond Cypress, similar to the Bald Cypress but with a finer texture. It is our hope that these trees will grow to their 50′ projected height to begin to soften and block the brutish facade of the HHS building.
One other piece of technical info that your readers may be interested in is that we strove to provide approximately 1000CF of soil for each tree within the Ginkgo grove under the suspended slab of the memorial plaza.
The memorial must have been crowded this week but when I took these photos on a recent weekday, it was quiet and I loved being there. I’m no pushover for memorials – too many of them left me cold – but this one is beautiful and calming and contemplative and lots more. And it accomplishes all that in a traffic island.
This is the view from the highway as it approaches one of DC’s more prominent Brutalist-style government buildings in the background. Like most people, I hate the style; brutal says it all. I know it was designed by a famous architect but I don’t care. I look forward to the trees blocking my view of it.
on November 13, 2014 at 8:52 pm, in the category But is it Art?.