By Jim Forthofer
In ARCHI-TECH we write about how technologies are designed into today's commercial buildings. Architects usually use these technologies with an eye to the future. They talk about sustainability, efficiency, aesthetics, and how the design will affect generations to come.
In this issue, we celebrate the innovative use of building technology as it looks to the past. The National World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO, (see Portal to the Past) uses creative building technology to reach back in time to save the memory of a generation.
"This generation was just about to fade from our consciousness," says Steve Berkheiser, the museum's executive director and a retired brigadier general of the U.S. Marine Corps. The Veterans Administration indicates there are only five combat veterans of WWI still living. They, and many from their generation, lied about their young ages to join "the war to end all wars."
As I walked through the museum I was struck by its similarity to one of the country's other best "event commemoratives," the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Both experiences are very personal. It was not surprising to learn that both were the impressive projects of well-known museum designer Ralph Appelbaum.
"The technology the design team used gave a human dimension to a macro event," says Berkheiser. "It took us from a memorial to a place of education."
Over 4 grinding years, WWI involved 20 countries from five continents with 9 million lost. It has long been obscured by subsequent conflicts with a better audio and visual record. Unlike today, that conflict certainly did not see young soldiers e-mailing us in "real time" with keyboards and weapons across their laps.
Congratulations to the talented designers and architects who skillfully employed today's building technologies for the noble cause, not of memorializing a war, but of also bringing back to life a generation of real people that has all but left us.