World War II smashed into our lives and left us all irrevocably changed.
In another age and place, the victors in such a global conflict would have raised a triumphal arch in a grand statement of commemoration. But times have changed, and the National Mall, where our nation's history is written in stone, is not suitable for arch-raising anymore.
Any memorial worthy of a site on the Mall must reach beyond a single event to celebrate the broader principles that guide our democracy. Sadly, the "Sacred Precinct" design offered by the American Battle Monuments Commission to commemorate World War II fails to do this.
The memorial design is a throwback to the stripped-down classicism that was popular in the earlier years of this century, and it is dependent on triumphal arches and other imperial motifs better suited to authoritarian regimes of a bygone era.
What America needs on this occasion is not a mausoleum but a celebratory statement about the nation's experience in World War II, one which symbolically captures a time when the world was turned upside down, and the nation -- military and civilians alike -- joined together. That new American spirit would be worth memorializing and worth a precious site on the increasingly crowded Mall.
The recent proposal by the National Capital Planning Commission to declare a moratorium on new monuments on the Mall suggests that the time is right to step back and take another look at the design of the World War II memorial before we commit a priceless site to a hundred-million-dollar project that lacks a message. While the commission's proposal allows "memorials-in-process" to proceed, it does offer those who brought this project forward -- and those who approved it -- a graceful opportunity to request that the proposed design can be revisited and improved. It's not too late.
-- W. Kent Cooper
is the architect of the Korean War Veterans Memorial.