Memorials for the Future

Submission: May 04, 2016
Registration: May 04, 2016
Language: English
Location: Washington, USA
Prizes: x3 teams to each receive $15,000 stipends
Type: Open International Design Competition


Memorials enshrine what we as a society want to remember. But the places, people, and stories that we memorialize, and the audiences who engage with them, are in fact constantly changing. A memorial tells its story through subject matter and design. This story is often complex and multi-dimensional as a memorial’s interpretive elements embody ideas of identity, culture, and heritage, and each have intensely personal interpretations for every individual.

The National Park Service (NPS), the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), and Van Alen Institute are collaborating on Memorials for the Future, an ideas competition to reimagine how we think about, feel, and experience memorials.

Memorials for the Future calls for designers, artists, and social scientists to develop new ways to commemorate people and events that are more inclusive and flexible, and that enrich Washington’s landscape while responding to the limitations of traditional commemoration. As the NPS celebrates its centennial in 2016, Memorials for the Future creates new ideas for honoring our diverse histories, heritage, and culture.

Three teams will be selected to participate in a research and design process, working closely with the competition partners to develop site-specific designs for memorials in Washington, DC that are adaptive, ephemeral, virtual, event-focused, or interactive. The teams’ proposals will advance a framework for the design of 21st-century memorials and provide future memorial sponsors with fresh approaches to commemorating their subject matter.

The following provocations are meant to fuel and direct the competition submissions. Concepts that address several of these provocations are more likely to meet the competition’s goals.


The competition is open to the public. Teams must include at least one designer (an artist, architect, landscape architect, urban designer and/or planner), and are encouraged to include members with expertise in technology, storytelling, history, commemoration, visual arts, and the social sciences. The competition partners will select three teams to each receive $15,000 stipends to participate in a research and design process.


  • How can a memorial’s narrative continue to evolve as new generations evaluate its significance within the larger context of our ongoing national history?
  • How can memorials be adaptive or temporal rather than permanent?
  • How can we commemorate events or acts with long time frames that are still reccurring today?


  • How can memorials advance dialogue around contemporary social, economic, health, or ecological problems that have historical roots?
  • How can memorials look forward while acknowledging a historical event or person?
  • How can memorials contribute to a more inclusive and more representative national narrative?
  • How can memorial designs encourage more, rather than fewer, sponsors?


  • How can we memorialize, while also balancing the need for active public space?
  • How can memorials engage more diverse audiences, in more flexible and interactive ways around a given narrative?
  • What unconventional physical or digital forms could memorials take?
  • How can memorials respond to various neighborhood contexts and scales while also commemorating national events or serving the national interest?


  •  April 18, 2016 – Pre-registration Deadline (Encouraged but not required)
  •  May 4, 2016 – Submission Deadline
  •  Early June 2016 – Top Three Finalist Teams Notified
  •  June 8, 2016 – Competition Launch Event
  •  Mid-July, 2016 – Design Framework Working Session (Exact dates TBD)
  •  Early August, 2016 – Final Presentation
  •  August 8, 2016 – Final Deliverables Due
  •  September 8, 2016 – Announcement of Competition Winner & Exhibition Launch


Phase I – Initial Application 
April 11 – May 4, 2016

Applications from multidisciplinary teams for this Request for Concepts are due May 4, 2016. (See submission requirements below for more information on applying.) Phase I will conclude on May 30, 2016, with the notification of the three teams selected to participate in the competition.

Finalist teams will attend a launch event in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2016 and June 9, 2016. Teams will present their initial proposals to the competition partners, advisory committee, and any public attendees.

Phase II – Research and Design Concept
June 8 – July 10, 2016

Over the course of the subsequent five weeks, teams will continue to conduct research and refine designs. Teams will participate in weekly calls with competition partners during which they will show in-progress work (via PDF sent beforehand). Teams are expected to incorporate feedback from the competition partners throughout the five-week process.

For one to two days during the week of July 11, 2016, teams will reconvene for a design framework mid-review working session.

Phase III – Final Designs
July 11 – August 1, 2016

Teams will have between three and four weeks to develop their final memorial proposals. During this period, teams will participate in weekly calls with competition partners and show in-progress materials via PDF.

For one to two days during the week of August 1, teams will meet again for a final design presentation.

Phase IV – Exhibition Development and Installation
August 1 – September 8, 2016

During the time period between the final review and exhibition launch, teams will participate in weekly calls with competition partners and show in-progress materials for the exhibition via PDF.


Teams are encouraged to signal their intent to participate by pre-registering via the competition website with the team lead’s name, email address, and phone number by April 18, 2016. Project updates and any answers to questions submitted about the competition will be emailed to team leads who have pre-registered.

All entries must be submitted to the competition website by 11:59p.m. EDT on May 4th, 2016. Late entries will be considered ineligible. There is no entry fee.

Go to the competition’s website