Marlon Blackwell Architects of Fayetteville has been selected to design the Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, D.C. More than 175 firms were evaluated by the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation’s board of directors, with 17 eligible designers presented to the design advisory board before narrowing the field to five finalists in May. Other finalists included Oklahoma-based Butzer Architects and Urbanism, Japan’s Kengo Kuma and Associates, and two New York-based firms, James Corner Field Operations and Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers.
“It’s a great and humble honor for our firm to design the Global War on Terrorism Memorial,” Blackwell, the E. Fay Jones chair in architecture and a distinguished professor in the Fay Jones School at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, said in a news release from the foundation. “It is a profound opportunity to provide a place to honor all those who have served and sacrificed to defend our country against terrorism, along with the many individuals and families who have been impacted by this conflict with no clear end in sight. Our firm will create a place of reverence, reflection, and restoration which fulfills the Foundation’s vision and mission.”
Republican Steve Womack, U.S. representative for the state’s 3rd Congressional District that includes Northwest Arkansas, said in a statement it brings him “great pride” that Marlon Blackwell Architects, from his district, “is trusted to bring this unifying monument to life.”
“I have no doubt Mr. Blackwell will bring his tremendous experience and expertise, which we’ve been fortunate enough to see around the district, to our nation’s capital,” Womack added.
Blackwell was the architect of Springdale’s St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which received the 2011 World Architecture Festival award for Best Civic and Community Building and won the 2012 American Institute of Architects National Small Project Award, one of 16 projects by Blackwell’s firm that has been recognized with national Institute of Architects awards, according to the firm. Marlon Blackwell Architects received the 2016 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in architecture and ranked No. 1 in design as part of the Architect 50, a national survey of architecture firms.
In 2011, Marlon Blackwell Architects was recognized as the Firm of the Year by Residential Architect Magazine. Among current projects for the firm is the Northwest Arkansas Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Springdale, slated to open in 2025.
Blackwell’s firm boasts “the ability, credibility, and humility to lead the design of an inclusive and reverent memorial,” foundation President and CEO Michael “Rod” Rodriguez said in the foundation’s news release. “Marlon’s proven track record as a world-class designer, combined with his personal experiences in a family with a history of military service, will contribute to a design that serves as a lasting tribute to the courage and sacrifice of all who have served in the Global War on Terrorism — especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Several members of Blackwell’s family have served in conflicts as members of the armed forces, so this project is particularly special for him, he said in May. “These folks who have served and risked their lives deserve to be honored.”
Following decisions from the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission regarding site selection, the foundation received federal authorization to begin designing a memorial after being in the site selection and approval phase since August 2017. The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, founded in 2015, tentatively plans for the memorial to be located within a triangular site at 23rd Street Northwest, Constitution Avenue Northwest and Henry Bacon Drive Northwest, adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial.
“The unyielding devotion and sacrifice of those who fought in the Global War on Terror will be beautifully honored through the memorial,” Womack said. “The Global War on Terrorism Memorial will display the gratitude for veterans of America’s longest war and honor those who will forever be part of the fabric that makes America strong.”
The war on terror “has touched the lives of everyone in some form or another, and it’s so important” to have a memorial on behalf of the nation, Blackwell said in May.
“The Board of Directors was impressed by Marlon Blackwell’s passion for the project and illustrious résumé,” foundation board chairman Ted Skokos, an alumnus of UA-Fayetteville with a Bachelor of Science degree and Juris Doctorate, said in the foundation’s news release. “Our foundation’s mission is to honor, heal, empower, and unite. Marlon Blackwell Architects is completely in sync with those tenets, and we look forward to working closely with them to bring this memorial to life.”
“The Board of Directors would also like to thank the other finalists for their outstanding presentations,” Skokos added. “It was a difficult decision, and we wish them the greatest success in their work.”
Blackwell and his firm will work with a Design Advisory Council — a body of Gold Star family members, veterans, and other Global War on Terrorism stakeholders — selected by the foundation who will help ensure the memorial reflects the experiences of those who served and sacrificed for the Global War on Terrorism.
“The foundation’s top priority is to have Marlon Blackwell Architects spend time with the DAC to receive the inspiration for a design rooted in shared experiences in the Global War on Terrorism,” Rodriguez said in the news release. “We are pleased that the authorization for a site for the memorial on the National Mall is in line with our schedule, and that foundational element will help shape the work of Marlon Blackwell Architects and the DAC in the months to come.”
When contemplating designing a memorial such as this, “I think the best word that comes to mind is ‘reflect’ — how can we reflect on this ongoing conflict and war that, to date, has no end — and find solace,” Blackwell said in May. “How are we going to touch people through design?”
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation’s sole mission is to “construct an inclusive place of honor for both uniformed and non-uniformed personnel who served and sacrificed as part of global counter-terrorism operations since Sept. 11, 2001,” according to the foundation.
The memorial is being funded entirely by donations, all of which are 100% tax deductible, and no federal government funding will be used.
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