The United States National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is a museum and visitor center for honoring the valor and sacrifice of military women and men who courageously gave of themselves in conflict. The Hall of Honor is templar in its siting on the embankment of the historic cantonment where General George Washington first established the medal during the American Revolution. A weathered steel arcuated portico establishes a welcoming, heroic, and distinctive expression that comfortably integrates into the rustic landscape of the 18th-century rough-hewn log cabins of George Washington’s cantonment.
Architizer chatted with Joseph G. Tattoni, FAIA – Design Principal at ikon.5 architects to learn more about this project.
Architizer: What inspired the initial concept for your design?
Joseph G. Tattoni: Purposefully sited to announce its presence, The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is conceived as a modern temple integrated into the rustic landscape surroundings. Inspired by the 18th century rough-hewn log cabins set in the wooded hillside of General George Washington’s historic cantonment, the weathered steel and bead blasted stainless steel provide color and texture that complement the deep russet colors of the cedar cabins, feeling both a part of and distinguished from Temple Hill’s bucolic scenery.
What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?
The contemplation garden and Reflection Terrace are the most unique components of the project. Each space re-connects the visitor to the adjacent historic landscape and the vast beauty of its Catskill Mountain site thereby offering a peaceful space for contemplation and reflection about self-sacrifice and duty. The contemplation garden houses an eternal flame in memory of those service women and men who gave their lives for liberty.
What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?
The greatest design challenge we encountered during the project was veterans, one from each war since World War II, who sat on the design committee, did not appreciate our initial understated and almost hidden conceptual design approach in deference to the historic cantonment. They wanted a more monumental expression that would convey the gravity of the sacrifice and valor of the service women and men who receive the Purple Heart. We knew that an overtly monumental expression would perhaps be inappropriate in the delicate historic park of Washington’s New York cantonment. Working through various options and discussions with New York Parks and the veteran representations, we developed a concept of the weathered portal that is monumental in form but understated in materiality. In this way, the project appropriately expresses its mission of recognition on this site.
How did the context of your project — environmental, social or cultural — influence your design?
The environmental, social and cultural context greatly influenced the architectural expression and the exhibit design of the project. The Hall of Honor is a high performance all-electric facility that minimizes its footprint in the park and in the world in responding to delicate environmental conditions that surround it. The welcome promenade and grand portal culturally reflect the grandeur of public service, which is the mission of this institution, but it has been scaled to also reflect the bucolic setting in a wooded park. The exhibit design socially connects with modern users by telling the stories of Purple Heart recipients and engaging the visitor into their situations. Upon arrival, each visitor gets the name of an actual Purple Heart recipient to follow their story throughout the museum as they move from digital and exhibition displays.
What drove the selection of materials used in the project?
The selection of materials was driven by expression, performance, and durability. An exterior façade made of weathered steel and sandblasted stainless steel plates gave us a material choice that accommodated all the project needs. The steel plates were erected as a ventilated rain screen which gave us a high-performance exterior envelope that reduced heat gain on the building and thereby reduced demands for energy consumption. Weathered and Stainless steel require little or no maintenance over the life of the building and thereby gave New York State Parks a highly durable and low maintenance facility. The texture and color of the weathered steel blended with the colors of the adjacent historic structures in the Park.
What is your favorite detail in the project and why?
Adjacent to the Roll of Honor is an exterior contemplative garden that houses an eternal flame for all Purple Heart recipients. It anchors a visual and physical connection to the historic park and dramatic Catskill landscape while encouraging visitors to embody hope in the somber and heroic message of the museum.
How important was sustainability as a design criteria as you worked on this project?
Sustainable design elements are integrated within the museum design to advance the mission of New York Parks to provide maximum public benefit through conservation of resources. A photovoltaic array is located on the roof to offset the power requirements. Electric charging stations are provided in the parking lot to encourage electric car use. Radiant heating and cooling is provided in the floor slab for comfort and effective environmental conditioning. The facility is constructed with a high-performance weathered steel rain screen panel wall system and a west facing weathered steel solar screen that most effectively reduces heat gain on the facility.
In what ways did you collaborate with others, and how did that add value to the project?
The entire design team of supporting designers and engineers collaborated in producing this highly successful project. Of particular note, both the landscape architect and exhibit designer contributed most visibly to the realization of the design concept. The landscape architect created a welcome promenade of landscape and hardscape materials that conveyed a sense of grandeur while being respectful of its natural park setting. The exhibit designer developed an exhibit narrative that was integrated into the architecture. In this way, the building, the landscape and the exhibit design reinforces the message of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.
How have your clients responded to the finished project?
New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor say visitor attendance has increased and the universal accessibility to and through the Hall of Honor has made visitor navigation more pleasant and impactful.
What key lesson did you learn in the process of conceiving the project?
The key lesson we learned in the process of conceiving this project is to listen carefully and respond attentively to all stakeholder input. If it were not for the veteran participants in the design committee who gave us so much input on why a more monumental expression and experience was appropriate, we would have had a very different building. Their insights and stories helped us understand and be creative in expressing their ideas of what a Hall of Honor at this site should look and feel like. The real design challenge and solution came from careful engagement of the veteran stakeholders.
How do you believe this project represents you or your firm as a whole?
Our firm design philosophy believes that architecture must embody the ethos and spirit of an institution in its expression and experience to be meaningful and timeless. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is a manifestation of our firm’s philosophy in that it expresses in its form and materiality the honor and valor of service women and men, contextually responds to the site conditions and sustainably reduces energy consumption.
How do you imagine this project influencing your work in the future?
Each of our projects influence future endeavors as we design to individual projects based on the idea that architecture is storytelling using the language of landscape and built form. The architectural resolution for this project reflects the regional traditions of the historic site and places a monument to civic achievement in a park. Creating an appropriate civic expression in a rural landscape will serve us well in the future as other projects carefully integrate building and landscape.
New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Staff; Veteran Representatives; Design Team: Arvind Tikku, AIA – Managing Principal; Charlie Maira, AIA LEED AP – Technical Principal; Saverio Manago, AIA – Project Manager; Michael Herbst, AIA – Project Manager; Andrew Skey – Project Coordinator
Structural Engineer: LERA Consulting Structural Engineers | MEP/F Engineer: Kohler Ronan Consulting Engineers | Civil Engineer: The Chazen Companies | Environmental Engineer: MacDonald Bedford | Landscape Architect: Nancy Owens Studio | Exhibit Design: Healy Kohler Design | Lighting Design: S+S Lighting Design | Contractor: Kokolakis Contracting
Products / Materials
Pre-weathered steel, photovoltaic roof cells, electric charging stations, and re-purposed cedar barn boards and skylight.
For more on the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, please visit the in-depth project page on Architizer.