Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Harriet Senie

Committee Members

Sally Webster

Katherine Manthorne

Jennifer Wingate

Subject Categories

American Art and Architecture


Memorials, National Mall, Public Art


This dissertation looks at U.S. war memorials on the National Mall built between 1983 – present. Each memorial designer was selected through an open design competition process and was subject to the same government approval processes. The Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), the National Capitol Monuments Commission (NCMC), and the National Park Service (NPS) all must approve memorials built on the National Mall. In some cases, the memorials shared project architects and sponsoring agencies. The case studies show that the design competition process ultimately shapes the meaning and appearance of the built memorials.

I argue that the guidelines, winning design, sponsoring agency, jury, and approval processes are all mitigating factors in the appearance and meaning of contemporary memorials designed through a competition process, and that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982), the Korean War Veterans Memorial (1995), and the National World War II Memorial (2004) present three models of transformation prompted by the design competition and implementation process. Each case study analyzes the way in which sponsoring agencies reshaped the designs throughout the process, with the consequence that content was driven by the intervening agencies as opposed to the winning designers.