October 12, 2005
The American Battle Monuments Commission
(ABMC) broke ground for a new building called the Normandy
Interpretive Center (NIC) near the hallowed site of the Normandy
American Cemetery in September. The center is intended to
tell the story of the American soldiers who gave their lives
during the World War II invasion of the coast and was designed
Citing the fact that the French and Germans
already have centers that represent their side of the Normandy
battle, David Greenbaum, FAIA, a SmithGroup design principal,
said it was time that an American interpretation was also
included. "Our goal was to integrate the architecture...with
the interpretive experience," he said.
Image Courtesy of SmithGroup,
To determine the program and style of
the project, the ABMC convened a group of historians, museum
directors, and the architects for a charrette at Omaha Beach,
France. One of the objectives was to not "steal the thunder"
of the cemetery, but rather to "create something interesting
in its own right," Greenbaum said.
Another important goal was to stress
the varied approaches that troops took when invading the coast.
As a result, the building hugs the landscape and has views
of a field, the sea, and through an oculus in one of the galleries,
the sky. The NIC's design draws on 1950s Neomodernism with
a simple palette of materials and colors. Due to the sensitivity
of the site, Greenbaum noted, "restraint was in order."