For a 25-year-old architect in training, the stunning fact that he won an international design competition for the new World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., is still sinking in.
“It was really crazy,” Joe Weishaar told ABC News today. “I’m thankful I got some time to get over it.”
Weishaar’s winning design, announced on Jan. 26, will take up what is now Pershing’s Park, named after Army General John J. Pershing, who launched the first major offensive in World War I.
His design, titled “The Weight of Sacrifice,” features a large green space surrounded by red maples and bronze relief panels sculpted with the images of men and women on the battlefields of Europe.
Sabin Howard, a sculptor from New York, will be creating the reliefs.
“What we wanted to do was give these sculptures to the people and allow them to touch it,” said Weishaar, a 2013 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “If they can feel the experience, it connects them to the war.”
America lost more than 100,000 men and women in “the war to end all wars” -- more lives lost than the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. And despite the loss, there is not a major monument or park dedicated to World War I in Washington, D.C.
Kansas City, Missouri, is home to the National World War I Museum, but Washington was lacking a space where visitors could reflect and learn from one of the most devastating wars in human history.
President Obama signed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the World War I Memorial in D.C., on Dec. 20, 2014. Congress granted the United States World War One Centennial Commission permission to use Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue. Currently, the statute says no federal dollars may be spent on the project, but fundraising is underway to foot the estimated $38 million cost of the memorial.
Weishaar joins the ranks of Maya Lin, an American artist who rose to fame at the age of 21 after she won a design competition for the now-iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Commission plans to break ground for the project on Veterans Day, 2017, with a planned completion date on Nov. 11, 2018, the centennial of Armistice Day.