An Insider Remembers Vietnam, Korea Memorials

submitted by the AIA Northern Virginia Chapter

Designing for Remembrance … An Architectural Memoir
William P. Lecky, FAIA
LDS Publisher, 2012, 184 pages



Chapter member William P. Lecky, FAIA, has just published a fascinating book on memorial design. As architect-of-record for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, Lecky worked closely with designer Maya Lin. His firm also served as architects for the Korean War Veterans Memorial in a mirror image location on the opposite side of the Reflecting Pool. Lecky’s book, Designing for Remembrance … An Architectural Memoir, offers a unique insight into the personal, political, financial, and artistic challenges involved in designing a national memorial.

The book is written from the perspective of an insider, with many unique stories that could only be told by someone in his position. It is both an engaging and emotional read and features a series of breathtaking photographs of some our nation’s most moving commemorative designs.

The first and most salient of the book’s four sections deals with the intense and complex machinations involved in the development of the Vietnam and Korean memorials. The second part deals with two memorials designed by Lecky but, as yet, unrealized. The third section is a series of stories about memorials built by others, including the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the World Trade Center Memorial.

The last, and very enlightening, section of the book is a collection of thoughts and observations about the process of memorial design, including such topics as the good and evil of design competitions, what and who is worthy of monumental commemoration, what is the appropriate message content, and should memorials endeavor to elicit an emotional response from the visitor or educate them on the history of the event or person being memorialized.

Lecky, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, has appeared in newspaper articles, television interviews, and documentaries for the Discovery Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC, and several private production companies. He has won a national AIA Design Award, a Presidential Design Award, numerous regional AIA Design Awards, the national AIA 25 Year Award, the Virginia Distinguished Achievement Award, and the AIA Silver Medal. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the AIA, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was cited as one of the top 10 designs in its history.

Lecky is president and founder of Lecky Design Studio and, during the 2012 AIA National Convention, volunteered to lead three local-chapter tours of the Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials. Additional information about the book can be found on the author’s Web site.

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