World War I national memorial inches closer to reality

A monument honoring the Americans who fought and died during World War I is one step closer to reality.

The plan of 25-year-old Illinois architect Joseph Weishaar was selected Tuesday as the winning project of an international competition to design the national memorial.

Weishaar’s design will add a free-standing sculpture and bas relief sculpture from Sabin Howard to the sculpture of Gen. John J. Pershing, which already resides in Pershing Park. Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces during the war.

“It’s overwhelming, entirely,” Weishaar told The Chicago Tribune. “Just even making it to the second round of the competition was entirely overwhelming. It’s the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m enthralled to see where it goes.”

But bringing the project into existence still faces substantial hurdles.

For one, the memorial is expected to cost about $40 million. So far just $1 million has been raised, The Tribune reported.

And there are criticisms about the plan itself.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission have yet to approve the design and some members of the boards have voiced opposition to the alteration of Pershing Park, according to The Washington Post.

Tom Moe, the only commissioner with the World War I Centennial Commission to vote against the design, called the project “absolutely underwhelming.”

“It should be remarkable and capture attention,” Moe said, according to The Post. “It is unremarkable. This is a nice green space with walls that people can walk around.”