David Norden, War Memorial Design

The Allen County War Memorial Design Concept.                  
Challenges in the design.

"Many war memorials today face loss of relevant meaning to the members of their community over time, an inability to adapt to evolving historical perspectives, and a lack of ability to engage visitors in a deep and authentic way of creating meaning and understanding. New war memorials should provide opportunities for visitors to engage with them in an active, conscious, and dynamic relationship with the built site. Encouraging such a connection facilitates deep and authentic meaning making that continues beyond the site visit, and that allows the memorial’s form to evolve over time in response to visitor interaction. The constructivist model for war memorial design incorporates ten strategies, and the Active Physical Interaction strategy in particular, that allow designers to create places that encourage visitors to have personalized interaction. These strategies are built on the constructivist philosophy that explains how individuals and groups of people understand the non-objective world through experience."

David Todd Nordon  "A Constructivist Model for Public War Memorial Design that Facilitates Dynamic Meaning Making"

We plan to use a contructivist approach. So what is constructivism? Quoted below is from thirteen.org, Education online.

"Constructivism is basically a theory -- based on observation and scientific study -- about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know. "

(http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html )

When you visit the memorial we want to build, we want to provoke thinking that relates to what we desire for you to take away. That will be different for each person, but we can cause a person to start where we are. What each individual gets from it will in part be from their own knowledge and experience. For example, A caisson carrying a flag draped coffin will remind almost everyone of a military funeral. What the visitor takes away from that will include his or her own experiences and knowledge. Perhaps the visitor's only experience in seeing this is from images of a presidential funeral such as Ronald Reagan's or John F. Kennedy. For others, it is a vivid reminder of  friends or family lost in war.

Using these concepts with war memorials, we believe we can accomplish our goal to construct a war memorial that will keep visitors engaged.

Our concept proposals call for a "Dynamic" Memorial  rather than purely "Static" that will help it to engage the populace spanning many generations. It is our perspective that it will be necessary to continue to analyze the memorial and make some type of changes and or additions to some degree and to keep volunteers involved. We would like to construct a memorial that allows for expansion and inclusion of new events related to Allen County's contributions to future military operations. 

In order for a memorial to have the effect of staying not only relevant, but active, it must be able to leave a lasting impact on the visitors, It must have some feature that keeps people engaged long after it is completed.  This would be more easily accomplished with what we are referring to as a "Dynamic" design in contrast to those that stay as they are built or have no way for visitors to feel like they are interacting with them. (ie. "static")   We want to engage the visitors and if possible, cause them to relate to those whom it is honoring in as much of a personal way as possible.

We hired the services of  an architect to whom we communicated our concepts in order to accomplish this goal.  Mr. David Norden, a licensed architect who has a better understanding of these concepts than we do. He wrote a Masters Thesis on the subject of War Memorial Design while at Virginia Tech. When we hired him he was working for LSG Landscape Architecture, an architectural firm in the Washington, D.C. area. You can see his thesis with illustrations here: DNorden-War Memorial Design (opens new window or tab)


A "Symphony" of Design Strategies:

We have many ideas for this very "grand" Allen County War Memorial. The design process started with our objectives and worked towards how we want to accomplish those objectives in a clearly defined strategy. We worked with Mr. Norden and the team at LSG to coalesce those ideas and present them in a cohesive manner. The result we believe, is a "Symphony" of design concepts that will accomplish our mission to build a memorial that "speaks" to our community for generations. 


David E. Paxton, Sr, President
Allen County Veterans Memorial Foundation.