- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Organizers of the proposed World War II Memorial take another step toward realizing their vision this week when the final design goes up for approval before the Commission of Fine Arts on Thursday.

Friedrich St. Florian, the design architect, hopes to convince the seven-member panel that his concept can teach the average 15-year-old student about the triumph of democracy over tyranny.

"The centerpiece must answer that rhetorical question … what was World War II about?" said Mr. St. Florian. "The centerpiece is about the celebration the celebration that we are all free," Mr. St. Florian said yesterday.

The granite design filled with fountains, gold stars and bronze sculptures must pass the extensive public hearing before the arts commission and then the National Capital Planning Commission, which must approve all monument designs.

"We're going into this with an open mind," said Charles H. Atherton, secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts. "[But] it's not a done deal from our point of view at all."

Efforts to bring this memorial to the Mall have taken more than a decade. After countless hearings, sketches and nearly $95 million in fund-raisers, its organizers hope to ceremonially break ground on Veterans Day in November.

Organizers estimate the project will take 2 and 1/2 years and $100 million to complete and hope to dedicate it on Memorial Day in 2003.

"I cannot help to think that it's going to be a welcome addition to the center line of the Mall," said Mr. St. Florian.

But the memorial has faced opposition and inquiry from many sectors. Opponents have wrangled over the selected site, which borders the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, and expressed concern that another memorial will give the Mall a cluttered appearance.

"The question is the degree of opposition that manifests itself on Thursday," said Mr. Atherton.

The oval-shape design to go before the commission creates an amphitheater-style plaza, with an arch at both the north and south ends commemorating the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war.

Critics complained a large memorial would ruin the view of the Lincoln Memorial and create an intrusion for visitors walking the Mall from the Lincoln Monument to the Washington Monument.

Mr. St. Florian said those complaints have been addressed.

"Everything has become much smaller, more transparent and more open [than the original design]," he said. "I think we were good listeners the process was a very open process."

Mr. St. Florian's design sinks 6 feet below 17th Street, and view of the Lincoln Memorial is only blocked when standing directly in front of a 9-foot wall of more than 4,000 gold stars, representing more than 400,000 killed or missing in battle.

"We calculated this extremely carefully. We insisted that you could still see the [monument]," Mr. St. Florian said.

The Rainbow Pool, located along 17th Street, will be reconfigured as the centerpiece of the plaza and will have a "new responsibility" as a reminder of the war's importance.

"Once you're inside the memorial, it has a sense of place … that has great strength and power," said Mr. St. Florian, "worthy of the magnitude of the event."

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