WW II Memorial Challenged Again

Thursday, July 20th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Opponents challenging the design and location of a planned World War II monument renewed their efforts Thursday to keep it off the grand sweep between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

Just before the U.S. Fine Arts Commission met to consider the design, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress, urged that the monument be moved from the National Mall to a site alongside. That site, now called Constitution Gardens, was considered earlier but rejected by the commission as not prominent enough.

``It should not cross our collective minds to interrupt the glorious and near-sacred space between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial with any man-made object,'' Norton told a news conference. It was not World War II veterans who chose the site, she noted.

President Clinton dedicated the Mall site five years ago, but no ground has been broken. Opposition to the site sprang up as discussions of the project's design and size progressed.

Judy Scott Feldman, the architectural historian among the leaders of the opposition, objects to two arches — one representing the Atlantic theater of war and the other the Pacific. She said they were triumphal arches that were traditional symbols of European tyranny.

She spoke recently with architect Friedrich St. Florian, who won the design competition for the memorial.

``What struck me most is that four years later, he still doesn't know what the message is,'' she said Wednesday. ``We in America take people — Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson — and they become symbols. His columns look like a battle graveyard in France. They could be in Arlington cemetery.''

St. Florian's 56 columns, each 17 feet high, would flank the small Rainbow Pool next to the Reflecting Pool that stretches in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Two big fountains would be reactivated in the Rainbow Pool, named because rainbows were seen in the spray when they were first turned on. The main jets would rise twice as high as the columns, with a sculptured and illuminated ``Torch of Freedom'' between them.

``The rainbows will still be there,'' St. Florian said.

He told reporters earlier this week that the message would be clear: the victory of democracy over tyranny.

The National Coalition to Save Our Mall contends the site belongs to the Lincoln Memorial and should remained untouched. It wants to leave the space clear between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, which stretch in a line toward the Capitol.

The group cites architect Henry Bacon, who worked on the plan for the area a century ago. Bacon wrote of the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, then still unbuilt.

``All three of these structures,'' he said, `stretching in one grand sweep from Capitol Hill to the Potomac River, will lend, one to the others, the associations and memories connected with each, and each will have its value increased by being on one axis and having visual relation to the other.''

Proponents of new monument say the National Mall should not be seen as belonging just to the 1800s, and that World War II was the greatest event of the 1900s.

The World War II monument would be financed by $100 million being collected from private contributors.


On the Net: National World War II Memorial site: http://www.wwiimemorial.com/