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National Veterans Memorial and Museum

Celebrating memory and the spirit of the place

Allied Works Architecture | Olin

The Scioto River flows in a slow, serpentine line through the city of Columbus, Ohio. This Midwestern “line of beauty” divides the mass of Downtown Columbus in the east from the flatlands to the west, instigating an understated yin yang relationship between the business, governmental and apartment towers on one side and a considerably less dense terrain of isolated buildings and parking lots on the other. In recent years, the immediate riverbank has been reinvigorated as a linear park, with one signature building - COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, by Japanese postmodernist Arata Isozaki - occupying a key convex tract facing Downtown. It has now been joined by the National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM), a ramping earthwork skillfully integrated into this evolving landscape. The NVMM is a new institution, indebted to the vision and guidance of the late John Glenn, hero of 1960s space exploration and, in later years, Senator from Ohio. In this case “institution” may be too stiff or forbidding a word. The NVMM celebrates the men and women who have served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and their diverse contributions to American life. There is here a comparatively small museum, whose exhibits are designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates with smart interactive components. However, the principal move of the NVMM is to instigate human encounter and contemplation. Designed by Allied Works Architecture of Portland and New York in collaboration with landscape architects Olin, this is a building unlike its many opaque and staticneighbors. It emerges from its alluvial site to shelter a womb-like interior and a spectacular roof terrace above. Rising from the earth, the building appears to pull the adjacent ground into concentric layers. It is as if the river landscape - including, in particular, a gentle grove of elm trees designed by Olin - has been harnessed and swept up into three-dimensional form, more akin to organic...

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