Competition Introduction & Overview - World War I Centennial


World War One Memorial Project Overview Video

Alone among the four great wars of the 20th century—the "American century"—there is no national memorial to World War I in our nation's capital. More American servicemen—116,516—gave their lives in that war than in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined, and 200,000 more came home wounded and maimed. Yet while those who fell in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in World War II, are honored and remembered with memorials on the National Mall, no such recognition is given to the veterans of World War I.

In December 2014, one hundred years after the start of the war, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to redress this omission. Congress authorized the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to establish a new memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue, one block from the White House and with a commanding view of the Capitol.

 The Sponsor

The sponsor of the World War I Memorial is the World War I Centennial Commission. The Commission was established by the World War I Centennial Commission Act, part of Public Law 112-272 passed by the 112th Congress and signed by the President on January 16, 2013. The Commission is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs, projects, and activities to commemorate the centennial of World War I; encouraging private organizations and State and local governments to organize and participate in activities commemorating the centennial of World War I; facilitating and coordinating activities throughout the United States relating to the centennial of World War I; serving as a clearinghouse for the collection and dissemination of information about events and plans for the centennial of World War I; and developing recommendations for Congress and the President for commemorating the centennial of World War I. The twelve Commissioners are appointed by the President, the majority and minority leaders of Congress, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Commission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Foundation for the Commemoration of the World Wars, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to be the principal fundraiser for the Commission.

The Purpose

Title 30, Section 3091 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 (Pub. L. 113-291), signed by President Obama on December 19, 2014, designates Pershing Park in the District of Columbia, along with the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, as national World War I memorials. The Act further authorizes the World War I Centennial Commission to honor the service of members of the United States armed forces in World War I by redeveloping Pershing Park with new sculptural and other commemorative elements, including landscaping.

The Process

The World War I Memorial Design Competition will be conducted in two stages.

Stage I will be an open call to submit design concepts for the memorial. The Jury will select three to five finalists.

In Stage II, the Participants will evolve their design concepts for the memorial and present their designs to the Jury.


World War I

 America in the War

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir apparent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist. Within five weeks, the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia had ignited a continental war involving all the major powers of Europe, with the "Central Powers" of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire facing the "Allies" of France, Russia and Britain. In time the war would involve dozens of nations and touch every continent and ocean across the globe. By the time an armistice was declared four years later, on November 11, 1918, ten million soldiers and another six million civilians had died. Read More

 Legacy of the War

World War I profoundly changed America and the world. The war ushered in the era of modern warfare; for the first time, war was waged in the air and under the sea, and new weapons on land gave war an industrial scale and a technological savagery it had never had before. War became "total," in that all the resources of society supported the war effort, and civilians became victims as never before. At the same time, diplomatic calls for a "league of nations" and for treaties banning war brought forth new aspirations for international cooperation, nonaggression,
and peaceful resolution of conflicts.  Read More

Memorial Context

 American War Memorials Before 1982

The concept of "national" war memorials in the United States is a relatively recent one. Washington DC itself abounds with traffic circles and park squares and other sites with statuary honoring generals, presidents, statesmen and other individuals of distinction. In Washington, this "great man" approach to commemoration focuses on the American Revolution and the Civil War. Read More

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Subsequent Memorials

The nation's memorial landscape changed dramatically in 1982, with the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, on the National Mall adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial. This memorial did not honor generals or presidents but rather the common soldier, represented in the famous wall listing the names of all American servicemen and women killed or missing in the war, supplemented by a nearby statue of three soldiers.  Read More

World War I Memorials in Washington, DC

While there is a World War I memorial on the National Mall, it is not a national memorial.  Read More


As part of America's commemoration of the centennial of World War I, the United States Congress has authorized an enhanced and expanded World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C. The creation of a national World War I Memorial in the nation's capital is a daunting but exciting challenge. Sited at Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Memorial will honor the 4.7 million Americans who served in the war, including the 116,516 who died, and will be a fitting addition to the national memorials to the three other great wars of the 20th century, located nearby on the National Mall. At the same time, the Memorial – located on "America's Main Street," one block from the White House – will be at the confluence of vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns, as well as commercial and institutional activities, and will continue to serve as a commemorative space, as the front door to adjacent uses, and as a park. Read More

Design Objective

Congress has authorized the World War I Centennial Commission to enhance the existing Pershing memorial by constructing on Pershing Park "appropriate sculptural and other commemorative elements, including landscaping." The objective of this design competition is to transform Pershing Park from a park that happens to contain a memorial to a site that is primarily a national World War I memorial, within a revitalized urban park setting with a distinct sense of place that complements the memorial purpose while attracting visitors, workers, and residents of the District of Columbia.

The memorial should honor and commemorate the service of American forces in World War I with sufficient scale and gravity that the memorial takes its place within the larger network of memorials and monuments situated on and around the National Mall. At the same time, designers should forge functional and perceptual linkages to the pathways, streets, and civic spaces and architectural landmarks around the site. Design and landscape elements should contribute to the park composition and strengthen the park's relationship to the larger urban context, while complementing, and not detracting from, the meaning of the commemorative elements (whether new or pre-existing) within the site.

Memorial Site

Pershing Park is the site for a national World War I Memorial in Washington, DC. It is a 1.8 acre parcel bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue NW on the north, 15th Street NW on the west, E Street NW on the south and 14th Street NW on the east.

In its current configuration, Pershing Park is an urban open space that contains commemorative elements as a secondary feature. While the memorial to General Pershing is a contributing element within the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site, the memorial function of Pershing Park as presently designed is diminished because the Pershing commemorative elements, including a 12-foot bronze statue of General Pershing and adjacent granite walls inscribed with maps and text, are located in a small corner of the site; are not well-integrated into the rest of the park; and do not focus on the service and sacrifice of American servicemen and women in the war.

Pershing Park was designed by noted landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg and Partners. The park was constructed by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation as part of the improvements to Pennsylvania Avenue. Opened to the public in 1981, the park was subsequently assigned to the National Park Service to administer and maintain.  Read More

Design Goals

The World War I Commission has established the following Design Goals to inform competition participants and the general public of the aspirations for the World War I Memorial. The selected design will undergo further review by several regulatory and advisory bodies, including the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the District of Columbia State Historic Preservation Office.  Read More

Competition Process

A process flowcart is provided for the competition.  Read More

Competition Regulations

These Regulations set forth the rules by which this Design Competition is conducted. Agreement by any Designer or Design Team to participate in any element of the Design Competition requires compliance with all Competition Regulations.  Read More

Competition Schedule

May 4-8, 2015 -- Public notice of upcoming competition
May 21, 2015 -- Competition kick-off and release of Competition Manual
July 21, 2015 -- Stage I Design Entries Due (electronic submission and entry fee paid)
July 22-24, 2015 -- Stage I Entry Conformance Review
July 28-30, 2015 -- Stage I Jury Session
August 4, 2015 -- Announcement of selected Stage II Participants/Concepts
August 12-13, 2015 -- Stage II Briefing
September 9-11, 2015 -- Stage II Mid-course Review 1
October 6-8, 2015 -- Stage II Mid-course Review 2
December 2, 2015 -- Stage II Design Submittal Due (Exhibit Boards, Project Narrative, Electronic file)
December 3-4, 2015 -- Stage II Submittal Conformance Review
December 5-20, 2015 -- Public Exhibition of Stage II Design Submittals
January 6-8, 2016 -- Stage II Jury Session (potential public presentations by Stage II Participants)
January 20, 2016 -- Announcement of Selected Design/Design Team