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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

December 2005 Issue

Symbolically Ruined
The nation's largest veterans' memorial overcomes siting and church-versus-state challenges

By Gary W. Cramer

Bridging Truths
Hugh Loomis

Ever since large garden follies went out of vogue on European estates in the early nineteenth century, chances for designers to erect brand new ruins in the landscape have been rather limited. Although follies never really caught on in the Americas in the first place, a new veterans’ memorial that adds many layers of symbolism and function to the old form suggests an alternative future in ruins for landscape architects.

Billed as the largest such memorial in the nation, the Pennsylvania Veterans’ Memorial at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery was a “eureka moment” brainchild of Charles J. (Cee Jay) Frederick Jr., asla, who won the design contest for the site in his first-ever try at a competition. The concept of a bombed out, roofless church being reclaimed by nature—or “the ruins of an identifiable building form in the landscape,” as the tagline for Frederick’s entry in the 1988–1989 competition read—literally came to him in his sleep. “I sat up and said ‘roofless chapel!’” says Frederick. “I was, at the time, taking a course in modern architecture,” he adds, giving due credit to the influence on his design of architect Philip Johnson’s 1960 Roofless Church garden in Indiana (see “Spirit Under the Sky,” Landscape Architecture, June 2004).

Frederick is a registered architect on top of having Harvard grad school training in landscape architecture and running Cee Jay Frederick Associates in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He says it was probably the firm’s interdisciplinary nature that won the day against nearly two dozen other entries in the statewide competition to design the memorial. Following the announcement of the winner, Architecture magazine reported in its March 1990 issue that the memorial “should be under construction within a year.” Actually, a 12-year gap fraught with difficulties in fund-raising, siting, and political correctness grew between the competition’s end and the $6.5 million memorial’s dedication in October 2001 (an event held just hours after President Bush announced the beginning of the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan). Frederick notes with some surprise, then, that his initial design was implemented with only minor revisions.

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