The city of Dubuque, Iowa, recently unveiled its renovated Veterans Memorial Plaza. Designed by RDG Planning & Design, the memorial seeks to honor veterans by unifying and enhancing existing memorials. Located on Chaplain Schmitt Island, the memorial was first dedicated in 2009 and championed by Dubuque resident Louis Kartman, a former U.S. Marine.
RDG’s design for the $3.2 million renovation created a new memorial mall unified through the golden mean, a decorative concrete path that transforms into an elevated boardwalk and extends from the Veterans Memorial Plaza over the pond. As part of the renovation, existing components, including donor pavers, memorials and the original helicopter installation, were temporarily removed and preserved and then reinstalled in the final design.
A key element of the project includes Skyward, a spiraling sculpture designed and fabricated by the Art Studio at RDG. The 24-foot public art installation honors the late Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt, who died at Pearl Harbor while helping crew members escape the USS Oklahoma as it took on water. Visitors can experience Skyward while reading Edward Thomas’ poem “Rain,” which is etched on the inside and serves as a reminder of the fragility of life, the price of war and the many sacrifices of veterans. In addition, colorful lighting illuminates the piece at night, adding prominence to the memorial.
“Creating this art piece has been a truly humbling experience,” says RDG Partner Doug Adamson, PLA, ASLA. “Throughout the process, we had the privilege of meeting with local veterans’ groups, listening to their stories and experiences, and gaining a deep understanding that helped ensure the sculpture was what it should be—a meaningful, contemplative space of solace and respect. We feel grateful for the chance to work with service members, as well as the city of Dubuque and our project partners to add to the experience of this tremendous memorial.”
RDG developed a placemaking and implementation plan designed to improve the overall riverfront on the island, enhance the overall experience, increase foot traffic, and create a sense of place that celebrates the values of the community and honors veterans of the U.S. Armed Services.
PHOTOS: IRIS22 Productions