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George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Enslaved People’s Memorial: Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

In Washington DC, it is not difficult to find the name of the first president, George Washington (1732-1799), who is called the founding father of the United States. Not only the capital’s name of the United States, but also the Washington Monument, the tallest structure in the middle of the city. Also, the prestigious George Washington University, and we find the George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Potomac River.
 Mount Vernon, where President George Washington lived from age 22 to 67 before his death, is located about 15 miles south of DC, accessible via the George Washington Memorial Parkway.   Mount Vernon was the home of President Washington and his family for nearly 45 years, and now his mansion and facilities lie on a large 500-acre farmland along the Potomac River in Virginia. The mansion, located on a hill with a superb view of the river, is said to be small and simple when rented in 1754 from his widowed sister-in-law. After that, in 1758 and 1775, it was reborn as a spacious mansion reflecting the taste of Washington through two constructions. In particular, they created a large Piazza and Colonnades on the east side of the mansion overlooking the Potomac River, which the Washington family used to spend the afternoon. In this space now, wooden chairs are lined up so that visitors can sit down and enjoy the scenery while looking down at the river. The mansion is a two-story red-roofed building, decorated with a golden dove shaped pinwheel in the middle of the roof, which symbolizes President Washington's hope for peace. On both sides of this mansion, the space where the servants stay and the kitchen are connected. In addition, there are small buildings for blacksmiths, mills, laundry, weaving houses, distilleries, salt storage, etc. Also, a beautiful flower garden, vegetable garden, small orchards, and barns can be found on the farm. This shows how life as a landlord was maintained by the many laborers who supported it.
Mount Vernon has the tomb of President George Washington and First Lady Martha Washington. As specified in President Washington's will, the body was relocated after his death, and the Washington couple is enshrined in marble caskets in the front, and 23 families are enshrined in the form of a family grave in the back.
After passing Washington's tomb and descending towards the Potomac River, another grave can be found. It is the grave of slaves who worked at Mount Vernon. There was a memorial with a cylindrical sculpture with the upper part cut diagonally in the middle of the forest. This memorial was originally a small memorial first founded by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1929, but it was rebuilt in 1983 in its present state. The memorial, designed by Howard University's architecture students, engraves the biblical words “love”, “hope” and “faith”, which former slaves relied on, in a small circular memorial area, and it has a gray cut-out granite column called “life unfinished” in the center. Looking at this memorial sculpture calmly, I turned around and found some bundles of old flowers lying here and there in the woods surrounding the memorial. “Oh! What is this?” I wondered …
As I approached the bouquet, I found a rectangle marked with thread on the ground around the bouquet. At the moment I realized what this rectangle meant and I looked around it. Next to it and next to it, beyond the hill over there, there were withered bouquets of flowers and rectangles of yarn. This was the place where those who ended their slave lives in Mount Vernon were buried. No small tombstones or burial mounds can be found unless there is the sign of a bouquet and thread. They were just buried under the flat ground. According to oral histories, about 100-150 people are expected to be buried in this sacred hill, and the bodies were buried with their feet toward the eastern river, symbolizing their unfulfilled desire of returning to Africa.
George Washington inherited 11 slaves from his father when he was 11 years old, and at least 577 slaves lived and worked at Mount Vernon. The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center in Mount Vernon features an exhibition documenting the life of Washington and an exhibition titled "Enslaved People of Mount Vernon". It is impressive that these two exhibitions are going on together. Also, in these exhibitions, I learned the dignified expression of “Enslaved People”, which emphasized their humanity instead of the word “slave”, which denotes a condition given by others. Especially, the exhibition “Enslaved People of Mount Vernon”  reminds me of the portrait of Flora, which I encountered at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery. This portrait depicts Flora, the object of sale on the bill of sale, without any detail, just cut out brown paper of her silhouette.  In the way of expressing the portrait, I read the rough and low attitude of dealing with a human named Flora and this made me shocked. This attitude was sadly found in their lowly buried figure here in the hills west of Mount Vernon, and it is still found in the figure of a different George, who was suffocated by someone's knee in our present history even 200 years later. At such times, we need to look back on our history and have an objective attitude. By looking at the mistakes in history and the numerous efforts to improve them, will we be able to invoke the humanity within us once again?  Just like what I experienced at Mount Vernon today.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial: Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

The world is struggling with COVID-19. Whether there are victims who have died or suffered for a long period of time due to the virus infection, we are facing another difficulty due to the economy contracted by quarantine to prevent infection. With the U.S. unemployment rate at the highest levels since the Great Depression, policies to revitalize the economy are urgently needed. While the United States has stimulus programs such as Coronavirus stimulus checks to the public, small business loans and special unemployment benefits, other countries have their own remedy policies. Recently, Korea has announced that it will promote the 'Korean Version New Deal' as a national project in order to recover the economy. The New Deal is a stimulus package implemented by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, to revive the stagnant economy in the United States from 1933 to 1936. It is regarded as a successful economic policy that marks an important milestone in overcoming the Great Depression and bringing economic development of the United States by providing jobs to the unemployed and reforming its economic structure, including welfare. President Roosevelt's ”New Deal'' policy is appropriate for reference in today's global economic crisis, in view of the proper intervention and support of the government in situations of economic crisis to support the basic market economy and liberal democracy. Along with questions about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's implementation of this policy, I decided to visit his memorial in Washington, DC.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, located in the Tidal Basin, Washington, DC's artificial lake, lies between the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. President Roosevelt is known as the leader who pushed for a New Deal during the Great Depression to overcome the U.S. economic crisis and as the leader of the Allied forces’ victory in World War II. His memorial was structured along the shore of the lake like a walkway in a park, passing through numerous flowers and trees in a flat area so that anyone can comfortably access the monument and look around. The memorial was dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and was built on 7.5 acres. The floors and structures of the memorial were made of South Dakota red granite and many of President Roosevelt’s quotes are inscribed on the walls. I was able to read his life and political philosophy of longing for peace, caring for the poor, and providing equal opportunities to all, while looking around the memorial inscribed with his writings.
The memorial was designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, selected by competition. President Roosevelt served four terms as president over a 12-year period.  The memorial structure was designed to reflect this service and is divided into five outdoor rooms - the first room serves as a prologue, and the remaining four rooms are designed to represent four years each. It is explained that each room has a waterfall that has a metaphorical meaning, and as it moves from one room to another, the waterfall becomes larger and more complex, and it is a design that symbolizes the role of the president in response to the economic downturn and the global war. (Unfortunately, during the visit, there was a technical issue with the waterfall, so I could not see the water flowing.) In the central part of the memorial, there is a large bronze statue of President Roosevelt with his loving dog, Fala. You can also see the statue of the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, which is said to be the only depiction of the first lady in the memorials of the former presidents. The First Lady is a standing figure before the United Nations’ emblem noting her as the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations. This reflects the efforts of each presidential couple who hates war and emphasizes peace through cooperation among nations rather than just one nation.
President Roosevelt became disabled as an adult and suffered disabilities due to polio. The Roosevelt Memorial is said to have tried to create a memorial accessible to people with various physical disabilities, taking into account the background of the president. The entire memorial was made accessible to wheelchairs, and among the memorial sculptures, there are sculptures that are engraved in Braille and can be touched by the visually impaired. Created in 1997 by sculptor Robert Graham, "Social Programs" is the work of 54 programs that were launched in accordance with President Roosevelt's New Deal. The artist produced 5 bronze panels and 5 pillars. Each panel is 6 feet x 6 feet (180 cm) with the hands and faces of the workers participating in the program as the background, and the image of each program is produced in relief. The program titles were also engraved in Braille. The five cylinders described as industrial printers, such as rollers, are engraved as negative spaces with these images and Braille. This work was made with the intention that the visually impaired people could touch it, but I thought that this role would be difficult in the work I actually observed. Since the work is located higher than expected, there will be a limit to understanding by touching the whole, and the Braille used by the visually impaired is designed in one size so that it can be trained accordingly to the sense of the fingertips. Because the distance between dots is different, it will take a lot of time and effort for the blind to understand. However, it was quite impressive that for non-visually-impaired viewers, the images and Braille were used together to see the work in consideration of the disabled.
Sculpture by George Segal, a sculptor depicting citizens suffering economic hardships during the Great Depression, has been compelling to me for a long time. George Segal uses a plaster bandage to cast a real person, but instead of using it as a mother mold for the casting, he puts it back together to create a person with a hollow inside. The figure made in this way reveals the actual appearance through the surface of the plaster bandage, but has a certain degree of anonymity, which can be seen in his work at the Roosevelt Memorial. The work is finished in bronze and is a statue of a farming couple with saggy shoulders and people waiting in line for bread distribution. Maybe I cannot know who they are, some of them ghost-like, but at the same time they seem to be familiar as many Americans are currently experiencing despair and difficulty. Also, I found our present state in it. (The only difference is that the waiting lines have a six-foot social distance now.) The wall of this piece contains the following phrase that shows the basic philosophy of Franklin Roosevelt's welfare policy: ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little’
At the memorial of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who has the background of “the one who has much” which is often called “Golden Boy” in American society, I met “the ones who have too little” such as the disabled, the poor, and women. Race related topics are not mentioned in this article, but messages of unity and cooperation between the races are also found throughout the memorial. Nearly a century after the Great Depression, we are facing another panic in our global pandemic, where our daily life and life itself are threatened, and in this we stand on the edge of mutual benefit. Looking back at Roosevelt's “New Deal” precedent at this time might provide at least a little hope of offering some of the answers to overcome the situation. Our society as a whole will be able to recover when we stand together to take care of the socially disadvantaged. It is undeniable that for this, leadership with the right values and political philosophy is urgently required. However, I realized that the awareness of each individual, including myself, was first, I decided to proceed with the project of “Hyun Jung Kim Version New Deal” in this time of my life crisis. Why don’t you try “your own New Deal“ together with those who are around you?

The National September 11 Museum: Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

The National 9.11 Museum was built on the site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, and is located between the monument “Reflecting Absence” on the south and north sides of the former Twin Towers. If the September 11 Memorial served as roles of commemorating and remembering the victims, the museum is responsible for stating, documenting, and educating its history and examining the impact of events in progress.
The museum had a sharp, geometrical shape that was difficult to discern when viewed from the front, and was built at a lower height than the surrounding buildings. The exterior walls of the building are made of reflective glass and metal, the surface is designed in stripes, and the combination of these shapes and materials gives the feeling of looking at the part of the collapsed Twin Towers. Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, which designed the Pavilion of the 9.11 museum, says saving the remains of the existing World Trade Center was the most important part of the design.
Entering the museum was more strict than other museums and memorials. After entering a security checkpoint like at an airport, visitors take a long escalator and go to the underground exhibition hall. On one side of the escalator, there are two iron pillars in the shape of large tridents. This has a symbolic meaning that the space of the museum is the same site as the twin towers since those tridents were part of the supporting structure located in front of the northern Twin Tower building. The museum’s interior was darkly lit, giving the impression of entering a deep burial ground in the form of an archaeologically excavated cave. The guide explained that the dark lighting was maintained for the preservation of artifacts in the field. In addition, the darkness created a more reverent and solemn atmosphere, considering that this space is actually the place of sacrifice for many victims and also a place where unidentified bodies are placed.
The tour simulates the actual day of September 11, beginning with a photo of the trade center at 8:30 am, a little before the terrorist attacks. The passage was like a dark tunnel, and there are posters looking for missing people at the time of the incident, projected on the walls and pillars. The cluttered posters, made in their own format, are just silent images but I experienced hallucinations of complex voices of the families as if they were calling their loved ones’ names. After crossing this pathway, one can see the interior of the museum – an open space with a high ceiling.
The museum's plan was aimed at four things: preservation, commemoration, education, and inspiration in content, which can be systematically found within this space where the place itself is an artifact. An old and broken staircase is displayed in the vertical space to descend to the deepest space in the museum. It is called "Survivors Staircase" because many former survivors escaped using this staircase. It is remembered as a remnant of some important existing sites along with the “Slurry Wall” and “Last Column”, and thus preserved and transferred to the museum when it was built.
In my previous article (May, 2020), I described the iconic fountains at the 9.11 Memorial with their streams of water flowing down their walls as if it they were human tears with the stories of victims, their families, and acquaintances, falling rapidly into the hole of a deep absence like the hell of death. I hadn’t realized it previously, but the bottom of each fountain actually sits above an exhibition hall of the museum. After reaching the bottom of the memorial where these tears gathered, I could finally meet that place in the museum. They were there: 2,983 victims. At the bottom of the North Memorial is an exhibition room with historical data of the events, and at the bottom of the South Memorial is an exhibition room with personal records of each victim. In particular, as soon as I entered the commemorative exhibition “In Memoriam”, the pictures of the victims overwhelmed me. I met some familiar faces: someone's son and daughter, father and mother, maybe one of my neighbors. The faces are so densely packed on everywhere from this wall to that wall and my tears that I had been holding back finally burst in that space. The exhibition hall also has a “touch table” – a touch-sensitive screen – which visitors can find information about each victim: what her/his favorite was, what she/he studied and what she/he was doing, who her/his family is, and how much friends and family loved her / him, are recorded through pictures, voices, and more. Here, rather than the death of each victim, their lives were commemorated in a more personal way than I had imagined.
There is a huge wall with blue tiles resembling the sky in the Memorial Hall across the North and South Memorial halls. This work, titled “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” shows different watercolors of the sky on the day of September 11 as explained in the title. Artist Spencer Finch commemorates the 2,893 victims by reflecting each in their own sky. Behind this wall, the victims who could not be identified were placed, so it was thought that the space of the greatest pain was most beautifully and poetically decorated. Also on this wall, a quote from the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid, “No day shall erase you from the memory of the time” is installed. Metalsmith Tom Joyce forged the wounded and crumpled pieces of steel which were found at the World Trade Center. He turned them into a message of hope and beauty, each letter weighing approximately 100 pounds. This hard production process and the result symbolize that the revealing and recording this difficult historical wound are a hard training but that we eventually will grow strong and will provide hope and promise in our history.
It is not easy to visit the museum with its many sacrifices. I experienced a wave of emotions: pain, sorrow, and even anger. But when I left the museum, I found myself no longer trapped in sorrow – I saw the love of humanity emerged in this tragic situation and realized the importance of the common values ​​to be kept once again. The National 9.11 Museum, which was thought to be like a cave of death, is actually a space that reminds us of and changes the values ​​that are important to us, like a cave of resurrection. I felt transformed as I came out of the dark underground museum, and was then welcomed by “Survivor’s Tree”. The survivor's tree, along with more than 400 newly planted trees, will blossom with the seasons, grow its leaves and grow large – as if our and the survivors’ hopes from these difficulties grow daily.

The National September 11 Memorial : Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I remember the moment when the Twin Towers of New York collapsed.  At that time, while I was studying in Manhattan, I set off to Dallas, where my brother was, on September 10.  That night, due to heavy rain, the airplane was taxiing for 2 hours and I complained so much to get off. After arriving in Dallas very late, the next morning, I faced the unbelievable scene being broadcasted live on the morning news. I mumbled, “I could have been there, too ...”
A lot of friends around me were sacrificed and the fact that we could know victims and their families not too far in our community, made me scared with the thought that this is not a story which can be in a faraway foreign country or old times but can be my story, my family and my close friends. This wound is still not forgotten around me, so visiting the September 11 Memorial was more emotional than visiting the others. Through the memorial information and acquaintances’ reviews, I knew how the September 11 Memorial was built, but the memorial that I actually visited and experienced gave me touching emotion and pain that could not be expressed with any pictures and explanations.
The National September 11 Memorial was built on about eight acres of the site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, about half of the original site. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a memorial was planned to commemorate 2,977 victims from the September 11 terror attacks and 6 victims from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The design of the memorial was selected through competition marked by a high volume of applications: 5,200. Israeli-American architect Michael Arad's "Reflecting Absence" was selected. Later on, he worked with landscape architect, Peter Walker to complete the memorial design. The memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2011, which marked the 10th anniversary of the attack, and since then has been open to the public.
Michael Arad designed the memorial by placing two negative squares as reflecting pools in the foot prints of the twin towers and he intended to resonate the loss and absence through these empty spaces.  The memorial I visited was actually larger than I imagined. A 4,046 m2 large negative square was located on the north and south building site each, and the inner side of the structure is made of black stone. In the middle of the large square, there is an intaglio square that appears to be smaller but deeper. The water falls gently toward the bottom along the inner wall of the first large square structure, and after a brief horizontal movement on the floor, the water quickly flows back into the small square. Looking at this flowing water made me experience something different: my emotion follows the water flows.  Malevich, the Suprematist, claimed that his only showed an existence in pure form, refusing any representation. This memorial, like the black square of Malevich, is thoroughly emptied, indicating the absence of its existence. However, the name of the victim carved around the structure begins the story of its existence. The stream that seems to have started from these names flows down the wall as if it was the tears with the stories of victims, their families, and acquaintances. The tears seemed to find calm for a while, but they are moving at a high speed toward another absence. This space of the absence is so dark and distant that no matter how hard you try to see what is on the floor, it is invisible. The stream of tears falls at a rapid speed into the hole of a deep absence like the hell of death, and my mind looking at it cannot help with the inexplicable sense of loss and pain.
The absence that I experienced at the September 11 Memorial is quite similar to what I have experienced at Dia Beacon: Earthworks artist Michael Heizer’s work In terms of morphology, it is common in that it places basic geometric shapes in an organic landscape on a large scale, and at the same time, experiences an empty space large enough to experience fear. However, in its semantic sense, the absence experience in the Memorial of September 11 is more similar to the negative space of the English sculptor Rachel Whiteread. Whiteread reveals the empty space by casting the outer part of existence and recognizes the real existence through this. Her known as “Counter Monument” is like that. This monument, with the subtitle of 'Nameless Library', is a structure created by casting a shelf of books stacked infinitely and repeatedly, symbolizing numerous Jewish victims. The spines of the books face inwards and are not visible, indicating the anonymous nature of each victim’s death. In terms of showing the existence of victims who can no longer been seen by its negative space, it is related to the space of absence, which is the negative space of the September 11 Memorial.
The September 11 Memorial is made with the merits of many other memorials. Around the square monument, the victims’ names are pierced on the bronze plates. The names are illuminated with lights at night and the arrangement of names was carefully planned with victims’ personal relations to help visitors.  When I visited, I saw a few white roses stuck in the names of several individuals. A rose was placed in the name of a victim who had a birthday. As in the Vietnam War Memorial, the victim's name serves as a memorial to be touched and shared.
Between the monuments placed in the south and the north of the Twin Towers, there is a museum displaying on-site artifacts, which occupy the entire basement of the memorial park and explain many of the questions I was curious about.
(The contents of the museum will continue next month.)

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery: Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

Arlington National Cemetery, located on the Virginia side across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, is a national cemetery buried with national contributors, including Presidents and veterans who were in the wars that the United States participated in after the Civil War. Arlington National Cemetery declares that its mission is to lay American veterans and their eligible family members to rest with dignity and honor, while treating their loved ones with respect and compassion. Beginning with the first burial of the Civil War veteran in 1864, funerals are still held every day except on Sundays and national holidays. To show their honor, the cemetery flies the American flag at half-staff 30 minutes before the first funeral of the day and takes the flag down 30 minutes after the last funeral of the day. Arlington National Cemetery, which began with Arlington House, privately owned by Mary Custis Lee, now has over 624 acres of land, with more than 400,000 people memorized there, and has plans for even further expansion.
Arlington National Cemetery is the place which contains and memorializes the most lives among where I've visited in recent years. Unlike the other memorials, to enter it, identification screening and security check up are required and this process was handled with reverence and solemnity. The same small white and rectangular tombstones lined up at regular intervals just like dominoes; at one moment, I got goosebumps thinking that those countless numbers of tombstones represent the numbers of dead soldiers. As I walked toward the tombs, each tombstone, geometrically and neutrally shaped like a minimalist's work, gradually began to contain their stories in a very personal way. The slightly rounded head of the headstone was engraved with religious symbol, such as a cross in memory of them, followed by the name of the grave owner, origin, work title, battlefield, and the dates of birth and death. I started to have conversations: “Mr. Clifford, thank you for helping our country by participating in the Korean War,” “Ms. Mary, how sad you were since you lost your husband in the war?” "Sweetheart, it is heartbreaking that you had to go to heaven two days after you were born."  Even to me, a totally new visitor to them, the contents of each monument were enough to allow them to be regarded as a person with a story like a neighbor next door, rather than a stranger. When I visited the Vietnam War Memorial, I remember a lot of people who touched a small name on the monument as if they touched him/her. I could image how much comfort and communication families and friends could have shared in this personal grave space which each regularly located tombstone created.
As you pass through the numerous tombstones and head toward the middle of Arlington National Cemetery, you will see a sign saying "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier." Unknown soldier? It is not surprising that there are unknown soldiers in the war, as there will certainly be situations in which the identity of the victim may be difficult due to the rough condition of death. But the moment I think, 'Who might not know who they are? Many of the heroes of the monuments that have passed by now have their stories preserved by name, but in what way can they celebrate who have disappeared without a name?'
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located on a hill overlooking the Potomac River and Washington DC. The monument of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a large rectangular sarcophagus about four meters long and was made by Yul Mable from Colorado. The monument weighs 79 tons, the heavy weight possibly representing the numerous unknown soldiers or the total weight of its grief. The memorial was built on a grave that buried corpses of unknown soldiers who fought in World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. The actual rectangular monument was on top of the tomb of World War I Unknown Soldier at the head of this graveyard. Standing toward the western wall of the monument, from the left to right, unknown soldiers of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the World War II are entombed. Architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones were selected for the design by the competition and the memorial was completed in 1932. The monument consists of four levels (cap, die, base and sub-base) and seven pieces of marble.  On the east side wall, three Greek figures representing peace, victory and valor are carved. The north and south walls, which are the longest, have three wreaths on each side, and the west side facing the viewer has the following sentence engraved: HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.
The tomb of the Unknown Soldier has something that no other graveyard has: a black, thin, long, straight mat in front of the monument's western wall. This mat marks the movement of soldiers guarding the tomb. The sentinels at this cemetery stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of weather, and rotate every hour. With rigorous training and even screening of the physical condition, the selected guards are following the rules set by the number 21, which symbolizes the military's highest honor: 21 footprints, 21 seconds of staring along the black line. I was able to see the changing of the guard ceremony, and during the ceremony, even the movement of the visitors and the conversation are restricted. Thoroughly trained guards have given the highest honor and value to the unknown soldiers they guard. The life that could have been overlooked and broken away in the absence of name, but the life that was sacrificed with the noble goal was memorialized heavily like the weight of someone's mourning and is guarded in the most respectful manners. Now, I, as an observer, felt something is rightly completed: the thing that deserves respect has received the proper respect. And also, this visit provided me a good opportunity to reconsider the scope of the memorial and its proper method of approach, considering the visitors who have been comforted by and benefit from this memorization process.

United States Air Force Memorial: Seen through a Sculptor’s Eyes

Driving on the George Washington Parkway along the Potomac River, two structures reach into the sky, one from each side of the river. One is the Washington Monument, built to commemorate George Washington, the first president of the United States; it is the tallest object under the DC sky, at a height of 554 feet. It is called the “Pencil Tower” since the body is thin relative to its height, and the shape of the top is like a pencil, with four slopes cut toward the center. The other is the United States Air Force Memorial, located in Arlington on the west side of the Potomac River – it has a monument of three pointy metal arcs piercing the sky. I decided to drive up close to it; the memorial is located directly on a high hill near Arlington National Cemetery, just past the Pentagon where photography and access are prohibited.
The U.S. Air Force Memorial is located on a relatively secluded Arlington Hill overlooking the Potomac River into Washington including the Washington Monument. Compared to other parts of Arlington, where the tallest buildings are densely populated, the Air Force Memorial monument soars into the sky, perhaps facilitated by the lack of surrounding buildings and the low skyline of the Pentagon. At the entrance to the Air Force Memorial, dedicated on October 16, 2006, former Air Force pilot President George W. Bush’s dedication quote, explaining the meaning of the Memorial: “A soldier can walk the battle fields where he once fought; a marine can walk the beaches he once stormed; but an airman can never visit the patch of sky he raced across on a mission to defend freedom. And so it’s fitting that the men and women of the Air Force have this memorial, a place here on the ground that recognizes their achievements and sacrifices in the skies above.”
The Air Force Memorial is the last project of American architect James Ingo Freed, also recognized as an American Holocaust Memorial Museum designer. There is a large rectangular field and at either end of the field, a black granite wall in honor of the Air Force's achievements stands. Near the southern wall, there are four 8-foot-tall bronze statues representing the United States Air Force Honor Guard, sculpted by Zenos Frudakis.  The three arcs, the most eye-catching and visible part of the monument from a distance, are located inside the memorial, with impressive views of the Pentagon and downtown Washington. The monument has a structure made of stainless steel plates, with its tallest part reaching a height of 270 feet.  From the bottom, two-thirds of each spire is filled with high-strength concrete, while the remaining one-third is hollow. At the boundary between the concrete and the hollow portion, a small ball-shaped lead filled with about one ton of weight creates a damper that those balls roll in the structure, making the structure safe in the wind. As a sculptor, I am interested in the stability of structures that respond to gravity, and like to closely observe how designers solved for such issues. I found the engineering explanation very interesting because I can simply imagine that building a huge ground-rooted arc is not easy.
The design is based on the appearance of an U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ flight cloud. USAF Thunderbirds flights typically have four aircraft flying together, except in funeral flights where an aircraft is omitted in honor of the missing companion(s) in the sky. The three arcs in the monument reflect this tradition, with the three arcs arranged at an angle of 120 degrees and soaring into the sky, which is their own reflecting pool. This design is better illustrated by the glass contemplation wall which is built near the north side of the memorial. Five transparent glass plates are combined and designed to stand by themselves and the flight of four F-16 planes with a “missing man formation” engraved on both sides of the wall. Through that empty space, the missing existence is better explained than by any other representation – that my heart tightened so much helps me understand how other viewers could feel when seeing that absent space. It's ironic indeed – a memorial is a space that is intended to keep what is now invisible in history by making it visible. However, here, the existence is made visible by making it not visible
Unlike other memorials, the Air Force Memorial does not have a reflecting pool – it is because the sky serves as the reflecting pool. The sky is also our dream pool – I wish everyone could leave the lifting cloud marks on our dream pool in the new year, just like those of this memorial.