By: Rachel Gruber and Claire Palermo-Re
How Architecture Influences Us
The National World War II Memorial is a great example of how architecture can influence us. Architecture can do things such as elicit emotions, encourage actions, and sometimes create a story. The National World War II Memorial uses both symbols and space in order to do these things, and in doing so, creates an extremely purposeful environment. It is an environment strategically designed to make its viewers reflect emotionally on one of our most important events in history.
When looking at architecture it is important to look at the use of physical space as well as the symbols used throughout. Both can be used in a variety of ways, depending on what kind of message is trying to be persuaded. Space, specifically, can be used to create feelings of openness, feelings of being closed off and crowded, and at times to create a story. The layout of a space can force a person to move through the space in a certain way, or give off an overall vibe about what the space is trying to project. This can be seen in things such as the width of aisles, museum exhibits, and overall shape of a space. Symbols, on the other hand, are used essentially as a form of a code. Instead of the image outwardly saying what it is trying to convey, those messages are left for the viewer to decode and interpret. They are words that are better left unsaid. Some examples of symbols can be seen in the shapes of buildings, materials, colors, and resemblances to other easily recognized things.
Space in the National World War II Memorial
In the middle of the memorial is the Rainbow Pool. The pool is circular and helps to connect the whole memorial. Two of the sides of the memorial represent the different war zones. The circular shape of the pool as well as the circular shape of the whole monument in general help to show the closeness that America felt throughout the war. Even though the war was fought all around the world Americans supported the soldiers and America was united throughout the war. The circular shape of the whole monument helps to connect the two war zones as well as the wall of golden stars. The golden stars are in the middle to also help connect the two war zones. It shows how people died in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific and really makes you realize how widespread this war was. It was truly a world war.
Lincoln Memorial in the background
Washington Monument in the background
If you are at the World War II Memorial and look above the wall of golden stars you can see the Lincoln Memorial across the reflecting pool. If you look to the other side you can see the Washington Monument. The World War II Memorial sits right in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. The World War II Memorial is open which allows you to also see these other important landmarks while being at this memorial. The openness of this memorial also means that this memorial and all of its components are open to the elements. When you go to visit this memorial you experience whatever the weather is that day. There is nowhere to hide from the elements. You can go on a sunny day one day and a snowy day another day and have a different experience due to the weather. The weather while you are at the memorial can have an effect on the atmosphere of your visit.
The openness of the monument also lets you experience different weather when you visit just as the soldiers in the war would have experienced. World War II was a war that took place throughout the world in the Pacific and in the Atlantic. This meant that depending on where a soldier was they could experience weather different from another soldier stationed in another part of the world.
Symbols in the National World War II Memorial
There are two arches on either side of the Memorial. One says Pacific on it and the other says Atlantic on it. They represent the Atlantic and the Pacific victories as well as the two separate war zones. The two towers are on opposite sides of the monument to represent the distance between the two war zones.
At one side of the World War II Memorial there is this wall filled with gold stars. The stars represents the more than 400,000 Americans who died in the war. each star represents 100 Americans who sacrificed their life during the war. The stars are shiny and gold. They really stick out at night because there are lights below that make the stars stand out. If you see the memorial at night the lights help draw your eyes to the stars. During WWII a gold star symbolized family sacrifice. The stars are gold to show the ultimate sacrifice these soldiers paid during the war.
There are 56 granite pillars encompassing the monument. They represent the states, territories and the District of Columbia that all make up the United States. They are placed closed together to represents the unity of America throughout World War II. In the wall that connects the pillars is a rope that also shows how connected all the states, territories and District of Columbia were throughout the war.
One way you can enter the memorial is through a pathway that has walls on either side of it. On the walls there are picture that show what life was like during the war. Some pictures show soldiers fighting in the jungle while others show the soldiers storming the sands of Normandy. These pictures show the wide range of environments the soldiers fought in as well as the different weapons they used. There are also pictures that showed civilians during the war. These pictures show how civilians helped the war effort and what their life was like during the war.
The pool that the memorial is centered around is a unique structure that holds importance as both space and a symbol. Specifically as a symbol however, is the water inside of the pool itself. Not only is a water seen as a cleansing substance, but the fountains inside of the pool create moving water, which adds a sense of flow. The moving water helps viewers to feel a sense of the United States’ attempts to cleanse the nation after the war. Water is also a naturally reflective surface, which creates an added solemness to the memorial, forcing viewers to look back at both themselves and the effects that the war had and all of those involved.