The Bartholomew County Veterans Memorial project was an invited competition for a memorial for veterans of 20th century wars in the architecturally acclaimed town of Columbus, Indiana. We won the invited competition for the memorial's design with a proposal for a field of twenty-five limestone pillars, each forty feet high. The space within the pillars is intense and pressured. Its density contrasts with an open grid of flowering trees and a plane of public lawn, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Landscape Architects.

Names of the one hundred and fifty-six veterans from Bartholomew County who gave their lives are carved onto the sides of the pillars. Letters and journals written by these soldiers are carved into the pillars. Viewers experience a layered passage into the heart of the grid of pillars in which the recorded experience of the veterans becomes more and more intimate as one delves deeper into the space. The memorial honors the veterans from the County and demonstrates their shared, unifying experience. It frames the regrettable events and effects of war within the contemporary culture of the county, and allows future generations to powerfully understand the histories of their families, county, and country.

The memorial is tied to the land and to its locale. The grid of the pillars compliments the grid of the city and the grid of flowering trees. It also recalls the rectilinear patterns of the surrounding agricultural landscape. Thompson and Rose worked with materials quarried in the County.

The pillars offer a profound and meditative space, a solemn experience that engenders a powerful sense of communal gratitude to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The monumental materiality of the pillars, and the sense of scale-less pressure that the space offers, creates a sense of participation in events that transcend the individual and the everyday experience.

Construction on this project was completed in 1997.

The project has been published in Landscape Architecture, Architectural Record, and Architecture, and received the 1998 Building Stone Institute Tucker Award of Excellence, a 1997 Boston Society of Architects Honor Award for Design Excellence, and a 1996 Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Award.

Photo Credits:

Chuck Choi Architectural Photography