Mt. Lebanon veterans memorial draws attention


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For three nights leading up to its dedication, Peter Kreuthmeier and Karen Loysen were still at work on Mt. Lebanon's veterans memorial, adjusting and tweaking as cars slowed along Cedar Boulevard. Even before its May 27 dedication, the memorial stopped traffic, the architects said.

"One fellow was in his car for five or 10 minutes," Mr. Kreuthmeier said. "At that moment, it was clear that this is a project that's going to make people stop and think, and that's really what the goal was."

For the pair, who own the firm Loysen and Kreuthmeier Architects, and a team of designers, contractors and engineers, creating the $440,000 memorial was a big responsibility.

"How do you honor folks in the language of what they mean to the community?" Mr. Kreuthmeier said. "How can you attach meaning to inanimate objects, and how can you have those objects be a container of emotion?"

The names of Mt. Lebanon service members from World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War who died in service are inscribed on an obelisk at the memorial on Morgan Drive. Veterans from Mt. Lebanon have served in other wars but planners know of casualties from only these three.

Illuminated at night, white marble stones symbolize the veterans' contributions and move outward into the natural landscape.

"It's meant to represent these people who stepped forward in the community," said Steve Iski of studio i architecture lighting, who was picked by Mr. Kreuthmeier to work on that important detail of the memorial.

Mr. Iski said the lighting designers wanted the structure to glow at night "with a restrained, subtle quality, almost like candles in the side chapel of a church."

"The challenge was to get enough light from these 'candles' to create a safe, welcoming place, while maintaining the solemn quality of the monument," he said.

For the architects, the design process was evolutionary. The team photographed the sites, returned to the studio, gave it some thought and went back.

Mt. Lebanon keyed two potential sites -- its present location and another on the hillside near the recreation center. The idea to create a memorial with twinkling lights that used the existing landscape started with the site that wasn't chosen, its giant trees creating a "provocative history."

But that site was slightly out of the way.

"If we want people to pay attention and acknowledge [the veterans]," Ms. Loysen said, "we should take the whole thing and move it front and center."

The present site had its own challenges -- mostly because it's a traffic circle. But plans proceeded.

Fundraising campaigns raised $485,000, including community donations and a $220,000 grant from Duquesne Light, which filled a funding gap when bids for the project came in significantly higher than expected a year ago.

Susan Morgans, public information officer for Mt. Lebanon said that news was a shock and a "real setback," causing the project to be scaled back. What resulted was a better fit for the space that did not sacrifice the design's beauty, she said.

The grant from Duquesne Light enabled the municipality to begin construction and complete the project all at once, rather than in stages. The project cost $440,000, with some additional fees for fundraising and area improvements.

Ms. Morgans noted the "real heroes" of the project were members of the community. As an example, she said, she got a $10 donation in the mail this week.

neigh_south

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. First Published June 7, 2012 9:15 AM


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