A Constructivist Model for Public War Memorial Design that Facilitates Dynamic Meaning Making

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Virginia Tech


Many war memorials today face loss of relevant meaning to the members of their community over time, an inability to adapt to evolving historical perspectives, and a lack of ability to engage visitors in a deep and authentic way of creating meaning and understanding.

New war memorials should provide opportunities for visitors to engage with them in an active, conscious, and dynamic relationship with the built site. Encouraging such a connection facilitates deep and authentic meaning making that continues beyond the site visit, and that allows the memorial's form to evolve over time in response to visitor interaction.

The constructivist model for war memorial design incorporates ten strategies, and the Active Physical Interaction strategy in particular, that allow designers to create places that encourage visitors to have personalized interaction. These strategies are built on the constructivist philosophy that explains how individuals and groups of people understand the non-objective world through experience.

This position was tested through the design of a Dutch World War Two memorial at Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg, Virginia. This memorial's main features include community garden beds for cultivation by the Village's elderly residents. The concept of sharp contrast reflected in three distinct areas of the memorial recall the oppression under five-years of Nazi occupation, the celebration of liberation in 1945, and the efforts of Allied and Resistance fighters in making this liberation possible.



constructivism, interaction, landscape architecture, memorial design, meaning making