Students' memorial designs honor fallen Aggies in Iraq, Afghanistan

Anat Geva

Last summer, fourth-year Texas A&M environmental design students designed several concepts for a memorial honoring 30 former students who lost their lives while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Working in five groups, 11 students, led by Anat Geva, professor of architecture, crafted solutions for a monument inscribed with the names of the fallen, to occupy the Corps of Cadets quad facing Coke Street on the Texas A&M campus.

In one concept, students Luke Franks and Erin Van Doren envisioned a walkway canopied by a succession of 30 three-sided steel beams bearing the names of the fallen. Adjacent to the names are quick response, or QR codes, directing mobile device users to a website with information about each soldier.

In another solution, Kimber Wray and Sarah Fletcher created a concrete memorial in a semicircle around a tree.

“Our design represents unity in our nation, our state, our campus and our families, reaching past the chaos of our everyday lives,” said the students in a design statement.

In another memorial, Chris Schwarz, Chelsea Jennings and Logan Lebeda create a sense of respect for visitors remembering the former students with three large, asymmetrical forms that visitors walk beneath.

“Openings in the forms above the visitors create a sense of humility, giving the impression there is something greater beyond the memorial walls,” reads the students’ design statement.

In another work, curved, concrete walls displaying former students’ names surround a bronze flame sculpture that represents welcoming arms, said Tyler Blanton and Joshua Berry, whose concept includes 30 trees creating a visual and acoustic buffer between the memorial and nearby campus activities.

During the semester, Roger Martinez, senior associate director of public partnership and outreach in the Texas A&M Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, and Will Schrank, an assistant commandant with the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, were important contributors to the studio, meeting with Geva and the students and attending design reviews. Ward Wells, professor of architecture, also attended project reviews.

Students presented their final projects to Lilia Gonzalez, Texas A&M campus architect,  who advised students during the project, Hannah Ortolon, Master of Architecture student and Gonzalez' graduate assistant; Donald Freeman, veteran programs and outreach coordinator at the Texas A&M Veteran Resource & Support Center; Dan Murany, a member of the VRSC staff; Ben Heimsath, principal and managing partner, Heimsath Architects, and Ahmed Ali, assistant professor of architecture, Stephen Caffey, instructional assistant professor of architecture.

As part of the project, Geva’s students also created a Texas A&M campus war memorial brochure that the VRSC is distributing to campus visitors.

The students memorial designs were exhibited last August in the Memorial Student Center’s Stark Galleries.

posted October 11, 2016