Chicago Architect John Ronan Selected to Design First National Memorial in D.C. Dedicated to Fallen Journalists

The memorial will be built at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., near the U.S. Capitol Building on the east end of the park. (Paula Nardini / Pexels)The memorial will be built at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., near the U.S. Capitol Building on the east end of the park. (Paula Nardini / Pexels)

A Chicago-based architect has been chosen to design the first national memorial in Washington D.C. dedicated to journalists who have lost their lives in service to press freedom.

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The local design firm John Ronan Architects, led by architect John Ronan, will be working to establish a final design proposal to be presented to various agencies over the coming months, according to a Wednesday news release from the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, tasked with establishing the memorial.

“It deals with what I think is a global issue, freedom of the press, not just an American issue,” Ronan told WTTW News. “The role of the journalist has never been more important, and the ideals of a free press never more consequential than it is today.”

The 10-month selection process was led by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger and a 10-member design team selection committee. The committee received more than 50 proposals from architects and designers from the U.S. and abroad.

The design concept engages with the theme of transparency and casts the visitor in the role of an investigative journalist, according to Ronan.

The design will feature 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, according to a news release.

“Visitors coming to the memorial, they’ll navigate through layered glass elements to reach a place of remembrance at the center of the site that honors those journalists who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of truth,” Ronan said.

(Courtesy of Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation)(Courtesy of Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation)

His firm has received multiple awards for its buildings in Chicago including the Poetry Foundation, Gary Comer Youth Center and the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Ronan, raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is also a professor at the IIT College of Architecture and a past recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award.

“We were inspired by his unique and compelling design concept, which calls for the use of transparent materials to convey themes of clarity and light to reinforce the importance of the work of journalists, photojournalists and a free press,” said Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation Chairman David Dreier in a news release.

The memorial will be built at the National Mall in D.C. next to the National Museum of the American Indian located near the U.S. Capitol Building on the east end of the park.

The National Mall is home to several major U.S. monuments and museums, and is often nicknamed “America’s front yard.”

​The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation was launched in 2019 during the first anniversary of the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, Maryland, where five journalists were murdered in their newsroom.

Contact Eunice Alpasan: @eunicealpasan | 773-509-5362 | [email protected]


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