Addressing the Nation: The Use of Design Competitions in Interpreting Historic Sites
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Design competitions are regularly used for the creation of monuments and structures in the United States. Pursuing this method to develop the interpretation of a historic site or monument, encompassing more than the design of the site and its structures, however, is a rarer and more recent phenomenon. This thesis evaluates the use of design competitions in the design and interpretation of historic sites that could be considered recent sites of conscience. This type of site is especially difficult to interpret, given its sometimes controversial status. The interpretation and design of a historic site significantly impacts a visitor’s perception of an event, a people, or the history of a location. It is responsible for creating what the visitor takes with them. A process this important must be carefully pursued and evaluated, especially when the content requires the designer to address the nation. The sites evaluated in this thesis (Women's Rights National Historical Site, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Flight 93 National Memorial) represent different stages of the process, ranging from a site that opened in 1980 (Women's Rights) to a site currently undergoing the construction of its chosen design (Flight 93). These design competitions, in response to a call for interpretation of a historic site marred by national and regional trauma or upheaval, reveal the lessons learned from the event and stimulate the next steps to occur on the site. They additionally allow opportunities for a variety of viewpoints to be expressed and considered in a juried atmosphere.