News Release

Memorials for the Future Semi-Finalists Announced

Date: May 31, 2016
Contact: Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, National Park Service, 202-619-7177
Contact: Stephen Staudigl, National Capital Planning Commission, 202-482-7279
Contact: Steven Thomson, Van Alen Institute, 202-924-7000

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2016) – The National Park Service (NPS), National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and Van Alen Institute today announced the top 30 semi-finalists for Memorials for the Future, an ideas competition that aims to rethink the way we develop and experience memorials.

Memorials for the Future, announced by the White House in October 2015 and launched on April 11, received proposals from 89 teams comprising 309 total participants from eight countries and dozens of disciplines, including design, art, engineering, anthropology, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental science, oral history and many more. The top 30 semi-finalists were selected after an intensive review of the teams' concepts, approaches, site locations, and experience.Images and project descriptions for the semi-finalists are available for high-resolution downloads at

"Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with preserving and sharing their stories," NPS National Capital Regional Director Bob Vogel said. "In our centennial year, this remains an exciting and humbling responsibility, and the semi-finalists' ideas help us imagine how we can fulfill our mission today in unexpected ways that resonate."

Many submissions proposed flexible or mobile formats for commemoration, uprooting the idea of a memorial as a singular object anchored to one place. A few teams showcased ideas for objects that could be hosted in a range of different cities;others proposed physical and digital tools that would allow visitors to create their own memorials in real-time by choosing its specific subject. More than half of the top 30 proposals took a place-based approach, choosing a specific site to host their memorial design.

"We are thrilled with the overall response to the competition," National Capital Planning Commission Executive Director Marcel Acosta said, "and these thoughtful, creative ideas will help us explore how memorials might share the stories and events of future generations in our capital city."

Several teams saw the memorial as an advocacy tool and chose to draw attention to events that are actively unfolding as a way to encourage intervention. Proposals that did focus on a subject ranged widely: some put forward climate change and biodiversity as topics to memorialize, others are testaments to more universal or personal human experiences such as loss and sacrifice, while some make the city of Washington, D.C. itself a subject for commemoration.

"Memorials for the Future poses a unique and exciting challenge for designers to think beyond what memorials look like," David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute said. "The competition pushes us to question what we as a society value and want to commemorate and how we can do so in a more democratic and interactive way."

The 30 semi-finalists' proposals are available on the project website,, and serve as a point of departure for a wider dialogue around what subjects the American people want to memorialize and how best to pursue commemoration. The project partners seek to open a conversation with the public generated by the semi-finalists ideas.

The top finalists will be announced on June 8 during an evening public panel discussion that will further examine opportunities for new and expanded approaches to commemoration. The evening program will take place at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The announcement and program will be live streamed here.

Each of the top finalist teams will receive a $15,000 stipend to further develop their proposals over the course of two months, responding to feedback from the 11 project jurors throughout the process. The winning team will be announced at a final exhibition in Washington, D.C., on September 8.


Last updated: May 31, 2016