Winner announced for Memorials for the Future ideas competition

Memorials for the Future-climate-chronograph-winner-678
Climate Chronograph – Winner | Image credits: Azimuth Land Craft

Recently, the National Park Service (NPS), National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and Van Alen Institute announced Climate Chronograph by Bay Area-based landscape architects Erik Jensen and Rebecca Sunter as the winning concept in the Memorials for the Future ideas competition. The competition sought to reimagine the way we develop and experience memorials in Washington, D.C., and inspire new memorial approaches around the country.

A free public exhibition showcasing the winner and finalists’ design concepts opens this evening in the Hall of Nations at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and runs through October 20, 2016.

Memorials for the Future-img-top4-14a
Climate Chronograph – Winner | Image credits: Azimuth Land Craft

Climate Chronograph, the winning concept, is a forward-looking memorial that takes a complex global process—climate change—and turns it into a tangible, personal experience. While memorials conventionally commemorate a moment in the past, this initially traditional-looking memorial offers a reimagined landscape and a living observatory that allows people to interact with the space as it evolves unpredictably over time.

“The National Park Service Centennial challenged us to think about new ways to engage the next generation and tell stories relevant to them. Memorials for the Future challenged us to think about how we will take the imagination displayed in this ideas competition and use it to spark a new generation of national park visitors, supporters and advocates, not to mention artists, architects and philosophers,” National Park Service Regional Director Bob Vogel said. “We’re committed to continuing this conversation and engaging people in the stories and commemorations that are important to them and to the shared heritage of our nation.”

The most compelling and relevant themes and trends from the competition were summarized in a just-released findings report, Not Set in Stone: Memorials for the Future. These ideas, which include engaging the present and future as much as the past; allowing for changing narratives; and considering ephemeral, mobile and temporary forms; may be used by organizations, planners and designers to inspire contemporary approaches to 21st-century memorials. The report explores these opportunities and can be viewed here.

“Whether linking local places to national issues, using boundary-pushing technology, or recognizing more voices in the American experience, this competition provided amazing ideas that expanded our understanding of what the capital city’s memorial landscape might include in the 21st century,” Marcel Acosta, NCPC executive director, said.

“The finalist concepts allow us to think outside the often-fixed nature of memorial design, looking beyond solemn marble statues of uniformed men on horseback, and envisioning emotionally resonant memorials open to varied interpretations,” Van Alen Institute Executive Director David van der Leer said.

Four finalists were selected in June from 89 teams from eight countries. The winner and finalists all offer a variety of innovative approaches to share and add new narratives, and connect people and places from across the nation. Various technologies are proposed to provide commemoration content and interpretation, and several designs change over time. The other three finalists were each recognized with honorable mentions: American Wild: A Memorial (honorable mention for marrying the ephemeral and iconic), The Im(migrant): Honoring the Journey (honorable mention for american heritage and community), and VOICEOVER (honorable mention for futurism and reinterpretation). For more information on the four finalist teams and competition process visit the project website.

Memorials for the Future-american-wild_a-memorial
American Wild: A Memorial – Honorable Mention | Image credits: Shelby Doyle, Justine Holzman, Forbes Lipschitz, Halina Steiner
Memorials for the Future-the-immigrant
The Im(migrant): Honoring the Journey | Image credits: Sahar Coston-Hardy, Janelle L. Johnson, Michelle Lin-Luse, Radhika Mohan
Memorials for the Future-voiceover
VOICE OVER – Honorable Mention | Image credits: Troy Hillman, Amy Catania Kulper, Anca Trandafirescu, Yurong Wu


2023 WLA Professional Awards registrations close on Friday, March 17, 2023, at 11:59pm London, UK.
About Damian Holmes 5671 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at