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The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation (FJMF) has announced that Chicago-based John Ronan Architects (JRA) has been selected to design a first-of-its-kind work on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that honors journalists who have died “while in search of the truth” while stressing the vital role of a free and fair press in a functioning democracy. The location of the new memorial, a third-of-an-acre triangular parcel of federally owned land between the National Museum of the American Indian and the Voice of America building with a direct view of the United States Capitol complex, received final approval from federal officials in May of last year; the site selection followed bipartisan Congressional approval in late 2020 that authorized the FJMF to establish the memorial.

“The JRA team delivered ideas that crystallized the vision we have always wanted for this memorial: to be a place of reflection and appreciation, for learning about press freedom, and most importantly, that honors the journalists who lost their lives in service of freedom,” remarked FJMF president Barbara Cochran, a former news executive and journalism professor, in a statement. Leading the foundation alongside Cochran is David Dreier, a former chairman of the Chicago-based Tribune Publishing company and Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California from 1981 to 2013.  


Image courtesy FJMF

While renderings and final design details of JRA’s winning concept have not yet been made public, FJMF described the design as a “compelling memorial experience that engages with the themes of transparency and light, reinforcing the importance of these factors to the work of journalists and to a free press. It will feature a layered assemblage of transparent elements that would appear different from all three sides of the triangular site, alluding to the multiple sides of a story that a journalist must analyze to discern the truth and encouraging visitors to investigate each space through their own journey.”

The U.S. Capitol will be clearly visible from the site, providing “diligent watch over the Capitol dome, visible above the memorial’s eastern rim.”

In the coming months, JRA will work with FJMF leadership to hone its concept and produce a final design that will be presented to various governmental agencies and commissions.  

“The memorial will be a journey of discovery that unfolds slowly, space by space, like a story that casts the visitor in the role of investigative journalist,” said JRA founding principal John Ronan, a 2000 Design Vanguard honoree whose Chicago Park District Headquarters appeared on the August 2023 cover of RECORD.

JRA’s selection concludes a 10-month search process overseen by a dedicated 10-member design committee led by architecture critic Paul Goldberger. The committee considered more than 50 proposals from a wide swath of international designers and architects, ultimately narrowing the proposals down to a four-team shortlist revealed in January: JRA, Höweler + Yoon, MOS with Hood Design Studio, and NADAAA. Joining Goldberger on the committee was Mia Lehrer and Joe Day, a landscape architect and architect, respectively, both based in Los Angeles; Milton Curry, professor of architecture at Cornell University; Chicago-based architecture critic Blair Kamin; Eden Rafshoon, president of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies; AECOM partner Alan Harwood, and Vincent Randazzo, project director of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.

Elsewhere on the National Mall, a National Global War on Terrorism Memorial is also in the works, with Marlon Blackwell Architects being announced as the designer of that project in July of last year.