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Merit Award - DESIGN

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Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial
White River State Park, Indianapolis, IN

NINebark, Inc.

Eric R. Fulford
President, NINebark, Inc.
685 Middle Drive
Woodruff Place
Indianapolis, IN 46201
Tel. 317-637-5394;
Fax 317-637-6300

Project Scope

To design and oversee construction of the Nation's first memorial honoring all 3432 recipients of the Medal of Honor, America's highest award for military valor and heroism.

Special Project Issues

1. Short Design and Construction Period: Conceived, designed and built in a period of eight months.

2. Challenging Public Site: A narrow, sloping embankment of the Central Canal, an active urban recreation corridor with the following dimensions: 800 ft. long x 48 ft. wide (max) with 12 ft. of vertical grade change was selected to maximize potential visitor-ship. Design response: The walls, although conceptual reminders of the conflicts that brought each person to their unique destiny, also pragmatically create the mid-Ievel platform that renders the narrow sloping site into a sculptural and usable place.

3. Need to Create a Conceptual Link to Military Park: Because the Medal of Honor originated during the Civil War and over 1,500 Medals were bestowed for that conflict, the Memorial shares an important symbolic and contextual relationship to Military Park, which forms its northern boundary. Creation of a strong conceptual link to the adjacent Park once used as a Civil War Recruitment Ground, was made more complex by the request of Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation to minimize the memorials physical and visual impact on this historic park. Design response: Two Memorial staircases and their related Overlooks subtly make gestures to the park and the medal's Civil War origins while providing a soft physical link between the Park and the Memorial for today's user: The curvilinear sweep of the conflict walls for the Civil War and Western Campaigns, originate from the center of Military Park. At the request of Historic Landmarks, no direct physical connections to the park were made; the height the glass sails was limited to 5 ft above the top embankment elevation; and no memorial structure was allowed to extend north from the top embankment sidewalk.

4. Complex Illumination: A major part of the design process, the selection of a reliable and effective method to illuminate the glass sails, that would also allow dimming, grew into a more comprehensive computer driven program that included sound. Design response: A custom modified metal halide fixture was selected over cold cathode technology because of the recent development of a patented dimming system.


In combination with timers and speakers controlled by a state-of-the-art, on-site, computer system, a marriage of oral history and subtle theatrical lighting in a series of "programs," readily updatable, was made possible.

5. "Memorial Worthy" Materials for Fast Track Construction: The short design and construction time frame quickly eliminated most typical memorial materials and opened the door to creatively bring out the visual strengths of glass, metal, and concrete with limited accent use of limestone. Design Response: Because of its transparency, perceived fragility, and ability to convey an evocative message of hope not death, GLASS in combination with light, was chosen as the primary media for the Memorial. The two-foot by seven-foot flat panels of 3/4 inch, blue-green, architectural plate glass were placed in the kiln to be curved into their gentle concave or convex forms, some were etched with names, places and ranks; and others, destined to become the textured back panel, were coated with bronze and glass powder flux that would render them an opaque teal blue color: The surfaces of the concrete walls were ground smooth to reveal the colors of the special aggregate used in the mix.

Role of Landscape Architect

Although a primary characteristic of the Memorial was collaboration at all levels, the Landscape Architect was the primary design consultant and the author of the design concept giving it its ultimate form through layout, grading, material selection and details, including the light and storytelling. The Landscape Architect, from a two-person office, provided construction documents that were supplemented by in-depth technical assistance and expertise of the following consultants and fabricators; the Structural Engineer who helped to minimize the size of the Stainless Steel Columns that support the glass panels: the Electrical Engineers and technicians for the design of a computerized sound and light system; the Graphic Designers who laid out all the text, the glass makers who transformed flat plate glass; the metal fabricators; and countless others who produced high quality work during such a fast track.


This project expands the typical public perception of Landscape Architecture to include complex materials and forms. The design of the Memorial is unique, the result of the men it honors and the difficult, narrow, sloping site selected. Storytelling and education are at the heart of the design of this Memorial and are fully integrated into the use of sound and light, plus information panels and bollards.

2001 Award Winners
Press Release
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