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MU architecture student's design could become permanent veterans memorial

Sunday, November 11, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:01 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 13, 2012
A new memorial intended to honor past, present and future MU veterans will be designed by the university's own architecture students. The memorial, which will be in Memorial Union North, would recognize all veterans who attended or worked at MU and who served in wars since the Memorial Student Union was completed. The Memorial Union was built in 1926, and the north wing was completed in 1952.

Three designs were chosen from 14 student proposals and presented to the Faculty Council Student Affairs Committee, which conceptualized the project in 2011.

"We had so many small plaques and remembrances all around Memorial Union, and it was decided that we could sort of consolidate those memorials," said Marty Walker, who is leading the project for the Chancellor's Committee for Veterans and Military Affairs. The two committees are working together.

COLUMBIA — A new campus memorial intended to honor past, present and future MU veterans will be designed by the university's own architecture students.

The memorial will be in Memorial Union North. The Memorial Union tower was completed in 1926 in remembrance of MU students killed in World War I, according to the Mizzou Alumni Association website. The north wing was rededicated after World War II and completed in 1952.

Three designs were chosen from 14 student proposals and presented to the Faculty Council Student Affairs Committee, which conceptualized the project in 2011. 

"We had so many small plaques and remembrances all around Memorial Union, and it was decided that we could sort of consolidate those memorials," said Marty Walker, who is leading the project for the Chancellor's Committee for Veterans and Military Affairs. The two committees are working together.

The new memorial would recognize all veterans who attended or worked at MU and who served in wars since Memorial Union was completed.

Walker, director of administrative services in the College of Engineering, volunteered to take on the project in spring of 2011. He said he contacted the Department of Architectural Studies because he thought students could come up with all-inclusive ideas that would appeal to other students.

The idea was turned into a project for Newton D'Souza's 4000-level architecture studio course. D'Souza, an assistant professor in architectural studies, worked with students to develop a design that would include a "brick and mortar" memorial as well as an electronic component.

"The good thing about the project is even if it's a small project, I think it's a great learning experience for our students," D'Souza said. "Although there are several logistical and pragmatic issues to be considered for such a project to be executed, to see a project from its initial stage all the way to the finish, that's very fulfilling."

This is the first opportunity for these students to execute something they designed as part of their studies. The student whose design is chosen will work with the administration and campus facilities to make the memorial a permanent part of Memorial Union.

One of the students, Molly Landers, said this was her favorite project and helped her decide that she wanted to be an interior designer after graduation.

"I could really see myself doing this and wanting to do this when I'm out of school," Landers said. "It really makes a difference when you're really passionate about something that you're doing."

The students studied the layout and traffic flow in Memorial Union to determine where they wanted to place the memorial and how to showcase the names of 500 to 600 veterans while leaving room for future additions. The students studied current memorials and incorporated their own creative vision into the proposals.

Walker said he wanted electronic access to the Library of Congress and Missouri Veterans History Projects incorporated into the memorial so current generations could educate themselves and connect with past veterans through images or sound. The database archives biographical information on veterans from World War I to the present, as well as audio interviews.

"The memorial will satisfy the needs of senior folks who need a brick-and-mortar memorial and younger folks who will gravitate to a living memorial," Walker said.

Missing man formation

The first design, created by senior Karen Johnson, was inspired by the military missing man formation. The formation is a maneuver used to recognize missing or dead comrades. Pilots will fly in a standard formation but leave an empty space for the missing member.

Johnson said that in considering something that connects all generations at MU, she thought of the columns.

"If one column went missing, it would be seen as a catastrophe," Johnson said. "But not necessarily so if one person went missing."

Johnson's design has five of the columns physically represented with a beam of light replacing the missing column, reminiscent of the World Trade Center memorial at Ground Zero. The veterans' names would be etched into panes of glass and accompanied by a touch screen where more information could be found about each name.

Johnson's proposal was to place the memorial on the wall behind the information desk in the lobby of Memorial Union North, currently a wall of windows looking into Stotler Lounge.

Reflection inspired by Maya Lin

The second proposal was from Landers, a senior interior design major. She said her design was mostly inspired by the reflective aspects of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., designed by Maya Lin.

"I was really drawn to the simplicity of hers, which was just that black granite wall with the names." Landers said. "But also, more so, the fact that these people are going up and touching these names and responding."

She said she wanted to create a "shadow box" feel where the names would be represented on the glass front and behind the glass would be a sculptural element to draw people in. The sculptural element consists of several criss-crossing beams, each representing a different branch of the military.

Her design would also incorporate an electronic kiosk where viewers could learn more about any of the veterans on the wall. This proposal places the memorial on the wall across from the information desk, currently containing several memorial plaques.

Entryway nook

The third student proposal, from senior Samantha Matthews, aims for a more welcoming feel. Her plan is to move one of the walls in the entry to Memorial Union North, currently used to separate a study room and distribute pamphlets. Matthews said she chose this placement so the memorial will be welcoming and visible during events held in the union archway.

"You want to design something that people are at least going to walk by and see," Matthews said. "Maybe even take a few minutes out of their day to stop and look at it."

Her design creates a space to the side of the entryway where people could step aside and experience the memorial. A black granite wall would be seen as you enter from the archway. If you entered the memorial space, the left wall would have an interactive touch screen with the wall covered in a black and white image of an American flag.

Walker said one of the three proposals will be presented to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and other administrators.

The chancellor's veterans committee is evaluating the proposals on how well they fit the idea of a military memorial, accessibility, cost and how well they attract attention.

"We're still trying to figure out the best way to go," Walker said. "You don't want to move too quickly on something like this."

Walker said he would like to have a public showing of the proposals to hear public reaction to the designs. Construction on the project is likely to start sometime next year.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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