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Designing Community Spaces at Veterans Memorials

June 2, 2015 | By |

By Steve Nowaczyk

One of our goals as landscape architects is to develop spaces that help to build, strengthen, and bring vibrancy to a community through connections to our physical surroundings and to one another. We have had the fortunate opportunity to be on design teams for several veterans memorials. These projects are unique because the memorial will serve an existing, tight knit community of veterans and those touched by their service.

Renderings courtesy of ARC Architects

Renderings courtesy of ARC Architects

Nakano Associates is currently working with ARC Architects and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to develop plans for a new memorial to the Tribe’s veterans.  Cultural heritage and tradition are important design criteria that will be reflected through native plantings.  Additionally, the Puyallup ancestry, being in close proximity to rivers and creeks, will be symbolically represented through the layout and paving finishes.

In veterans memorial designs, our aim is to provide a place of remembrance that in some way emulates a community’s collective respect for the individuals, families, and diverse ethnic groups who have served our country.  We accomplish this through symbolism in hardscape and softscape materials, providing areas for both personal reflection and larger group gatherings. We always ensure the memorial is easily accessible for all visitors.

Nakano Associates Squaxin Island Tribe Veterans Memorial

The design for the Squaxin Veterans Memorial creates a unified landscape vision that expresses the values and history of the Tribe.

For example, at the Squaxin Island Tribe Veterans Memorial, completed a few years ago, we developed a design in close collaboration with the tribal members. The Veterans Memorial is anchored by a small ceremonial gathering space representing Squaxin Island, the symbolic heart of the Squaxin Island Tribe who are also known as the People of the Water.

Seven water pools, representing the Tribe’s traditional lands comprised of seven watersheds in south Puget Sound, radiate out from the center space.  Each water pool is a setting for a cluster of bronze paddles, each bearing the name of a veteran. The Veterans Committee brought home a large petroglyph boulder that was originally found on Harstene Island and is now sited on the memorial grounds. Other elements include a more traditional flag plaza and interpretive displays with oral history storytelling and plant names in the Lushootseed language.

A veterans memorial can take many different forms, but all memorials need to convey a sense of gratitude and provide solace, strengthen bonds, and do justice to the Veteran’s ‎service to our country.

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  • Incorporating references to Gig Harbor’s maritime history, including the relocation of the Fishermen’s Memorial
  • Providing universal access to the plaza and Jerisich Dock
  • Creating a public space that is an attraction throughout the year
Utilitarian parameters:
  • Integrating the lift station in historic Skansie Brothers Park
  • Providing vehicular access to lift station across the plaza
  • Concealing the lift station dry well and associated utilities
The new plaza features stone paving reminiscent of seashells or beaches, and it integrates with Skansie Brothers Park through a series of undulating steps and a pathway leading down to Jerisich Dock. Low walls and picnic tables provide ample seating for picnics or for attending a summer concert. Working with Brett Marlo Design and architect David K. Fisher, the design team selected cohesive materials such as granite stone, cedar, concrete and stainless steel to tie the plaza and the building together. Read more about the project and the grand opening here.   Save