With the selection of five finalists for its memorial competition, the United States World War I Centennial Commission seems to be moving closer to a showdown with preservation groups.

All five finalists for a memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington call for the elimination of Pershing Park, which has occupied the site for more than 30 years. Designed by M. Paul Friedberg, with plantings by Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, the park has been identified as an important modernist landscape, and Friedberg told RECORD that the organizers of the competition should have called him first. Competitors were allowed to work with the existing Friedberg landscape, but few of them did so. The judges, who include a landscape preservationist, seemed not to find the park worth saving.

Traditionalists should be pleased that one of the five designs is classical. Its creator, Devin Kimmel of Annapolis, stated simply:  “The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War.” The other finalists, all of whom proposed contemporary memorials, are Johnsen Schmaling Architects of Milwaukee, with a "relentless" grid of glowing markers representing Americans lost; Joseph Weishaar of Chicago, with dramatic bas reliefs; STL Architects, also of Chicago, with a mosaic of large photos spread across the site; and Counts Studio in Brooklyn, with a serpentine garden. Each finalist will receive $25,000 to further develop its design.