Arlington National Cemetery: Engaging Hallowed Ground

Opened in 1864 to accommodate the massive casualties from America’s Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery is revered as the most hallowed shrine to the honored dead of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Born in the time of travel by foot, horse, and carriage, the years of accreted function have not been kind to the original elegant arrival experience.  Funeral attendees and visitors confront a fragmented, chaotic, non-intuitive condition at a time calling for simplicity, clarity, and solemnity.

The studio asks you to transform the basic rudiments of arrival into grace.  You will take on one of the most classic design problems landscape architects and architects confront – how to array a site and building program that intermingles conflicting and often dangerous modes of transportation while communicating to each user how to get where they wish to go, all while offering a safe and beautiful setting befitting of the place.  In this case, America’s most hallowed shrine.

To get to that point, we will first explore the meaning of arrival.  Your research, analysis, and solutions will be focused on strategies and designs that erase the negative effects of the cumulative degradation of the arrival experience through prior accommodations to modern life. You will map and study the history of Arlington National Cemetery.  This is a history of honoring extreme human sacrifice in military service.  What can we learn about arriving to a place that honors that which we all wish need not occur? 

Beyond the expected rigorous analysis and understanding of the physical site, you will be pushed for your opinions and your design response to the problem.  The places that move us – places that put us into a particular state of mind – do so as a result of physical arrangements and design decisions.  If you desire to explore site scaled design that touches the deepest core of human emotion, this studio offers that opportunity.

You will use the full array of software, physical modeling, and hand drawing skills to work as you would in a professional design studio.  Your presentations skills will be honed during a session with a skilled theater actor/director/playwright.