Authors: Alfred Preis

Location: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Year complete: 1962

Description: 184′ long, 36′ wide, 21′ high structure supported over USS Arizona wreckage by 36 concrete pilings and two 250 ton steel girders.

The memorial was designed by Alfred Pries, an Austrian born, Jewish descended architect who fled Europe when the Nazis invaded Austria.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States placed residents of Japanese, German, and Austrian descent in internment camps, Pries was imprisoned for 3 months.  Pries designed the memorial based on specifications from the Navy, which desired a bridge-like form that could hold 200 people simultaneously.  The Navy chose Pries’ design after several other designs were considered.


The memorial is built directly over, though not touching the wreckage of the USS Arizona.  To give the visual impression that the memorial is floating over the wreckage of the USS Arizona, 36 concrete pilings support two 250 ton steel girders.  


The structure is 184 feet long, 36 feet wide and 21 feet high at the ends, and decreases to only 27 feet wide and 14 feet high at the center.  The rise, fall, and rise of the form of the memorial is meant to represent the pre-war pride of the US, followed by the depression and destruction after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then the post-war position of power of the US.


The physical context of the project, both its location directly over the wreckage which was left in place, and its location at the site of the attack bring up interesting memorial architecture strategies.  Leaving the wreckage in place allows greater interaction and opportunity for understanding for visitors to the memorial.  They get to experience the scale of the USS Arizona, while also witnessing the damage caused by the attack in person rather than just photographically.  


Water also plays an important architectural role in the memorial.  The wreckage is covered by water, which looks calm and peaceful, in opposition to attack on Pearl Harbor.  However, the water exerts a huge amount of force on the memorial, necessitating the 36 pilings and heavy girders to keep it in place.  This foundation keeping the memorial steady could represent the strength of the US as well.  It is strength to survive an invisible force, or an unexpected attack.  The water is also contributing to the deterioration of the wreckage of the ship itself.  


The Official Pearl Harbor Tours Website

Pearl Harbor Historic Sites website

National Park Service website


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