Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is a presidential memorial dedicated to the memory of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and to the era he represents. For the memorial's designer, landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, the memorial site represents the capstone of a distinguished career, partly because the landscape architect had fond memories of Roosevelt, and partly because of the sheer difficulty of the task.

FDR Memorial
Dedicated on May 2, 1997 by President Bill Clinton, the monument, spread over 7.5 acres (30,000 m 2), traces 12 years of the history of the United States through a sequence of four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR's terms of office. Sculptures inspired by photographs depict the 32nd president alongside his dog Fala. Other sculptures depict scenes from the Great Depression, such as listening to a fireside chat on the radio and waiting in a ,a bronze sculpture by George Segal ]. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing before the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN. It is the only presidential memorial to depict a First Lady. Considering Roosevelt's disability, the memorial's designers intended to create a memorial that would be accessible to those with various physical impairments. Among other features, the memorial includes an area with tactile reliefs with braille writing for people who are blind. However, the memorial faced serious criticism from disabled activists. Some of the braille and reliefs were placed well above the reach of even a very tall person, rendering the braille pointless because no blind person could reach high enough to read it.

The statue of FDR also stirred controversy over the issue of his disability. Designers decided against plans to have FDR shown in a wheelchair. Instead, the statue depicts the president in a chair with a cloak obscuring the chair, showing him as he appeared to the public during his life. Roosevelt's reliance on a wheelchair was not publicized during his life, as there was a stigma of weakness and instability associated with any disability. However, many wanted his disability to be shown to tell the story of what they believed to be the source of his strength. Other disability advocates, while not necessarily against showing him in a wheelchair, were wary of protests about the memorial that leaned toward making Roosevelt a hero because of his disability. The sculptor added casters to the back of the chair in deference to advocates, making it a symbolic "wheelchair". The casters are only visible behind the statue. The National Organization on Disability, headed by the efforts of Alan Reich raised $1.65 million over two years to fund the addition of another statue that clearly showed the president in a wheelchair. In January 2001, the additional statue was placed near the memorial entrance showing FDR seated in a wheelchair much like the one he actually used. The memorial's designer construed the wheelchair controversy as evidence of success, because "the most important thing about designing is to generate creativity in others, and to be inclusive ”“ to include the needs and experiences of people interacting with the environment, and to let them be part of its creation." Running water is an important physical and metaphoric component of the memorial. Each of the four "rooms" representing Roosevelt's respective terms in office contains a waterfall. As one moves from room to room, the waterfalls become larger and more complex, reflecting the increasing complexity of a presidency marked by the vast upheavals of economic depression and world war. When the memorial first opened, people were encouraged to wade into the fountains and waterfalls. Within a matter of days, the National Park Service, fearing accidents, prohibited people from entering the water. Tour guides describe the symbolism of the five main water areas as:
  • A single large drop - The crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression
  • Multiple stairstep drops - The Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project
  • Chaotic falls at varying angles - World War II
  • A still pool - Roosevelt's death
  • A wide array combining the earlier waterfalls - A retrospective of Roosevelt's presidency
The memorial's design concept of four outdoor "rooms" and gardens is animated by water, stone, and sculpture. The 1974 design competition was won by Lawrence Halprin; but for more than 20 years Congress failed to appropriate the funds to move beyond this conceptual stage. The national memorial includes sculptures and works by Leonard Baskin, Neil Estern, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, and George Segal. The site is part of National Mall and Memorial Parks. As an historic area managed by the National Park Service, the memorial was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on date of its establishment, May 2, 1997.

Today, more than 2.8 million people visit the memorial each year. The architecture critic of the Washington Post stated that the memorial was designed "to give people as many options as possible to go this way or that, to reverse directions, to pause, to start over, to be alone, to meet others, and to experience as many different sights, smells and sounds as the site permits."

FDR's feelings about a memorial
FDR had told his friend Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, "If they are to put up any memorial to me, I should like it to be placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building. I should like it to consist of a block about the size ." In accordance with FDR's wishes, a small, simple memorial to him was placed on the lawn near the corner of 9th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. This small memorial predates the larger one by some 30 years.

Building Activity

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