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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Marine Corps museum honors the few, the proud

April 28, 2002

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— A Marine Corps museum scheduled to break ground in a year will feature a 210-foot tilted spire meant to evoke the flag-raising at Iwo Jima during World War II.

The mast, inclined at a 45-degree angle, is the most striking feature of the museum's glass atrium design.

"When people see the sketches of the atrium, about a third pick up on it immediately that's a stylized rendition of the flag-raising," said Col. Joe Long, the Marines' project manager for the museum, which will be on the Marine base at Quantico.

Workers will break ground on the $50 million Marine Corps Museum in April 2003. It is expected to be finished in 2005. Long said he expected the museum to draw 250,000 to 400,000 visitors a year.

A smaller museum on the base now draws about 30,000 visitors a year and displays only a fraction of the artifacts that will be exhibited at the new institution.

Curtis Fentress, whose firm, Fentress Bradburn Architects, won a design competition for the project last year, said the architects immersed themselves in Marine Corps history. He said the famous Associated Press photo of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, the angle of howitzers, and the way the fighting men hold their rifles all suggested the 45-degree angle.

"We really tried to absorb what it was to be a Marine," Fentress said.

The museum will also be designed to give people a taste of what it was like to be a Marine in different eras. The Vietnam room, for instance, will be hot and humid, like the jungle. The Korea room will be cold, as it was in the months after the landing at Inchon in 1950.

The mast will emerge from a 160-foot-high glass atrium. The building must be designed to handle a terrorist attack.

"It's a challenge for the engineers. It's going to be a challenge for the contractor to build," said Jerry Rasgus, project manager for Weidlinger Associates, the engineering firm on the contract.

A new Army museum nearby at Fort Belvoir is slated for completion in 2009. It is expected to draw up to 1 million visitors a year.

Jeb Bennett, director of Army museums, said the two institutions would complement each other and anchor a corridor of historical sites along Interstate 95 and U.S. 1, including Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, and Gunston Hall, home of founding father George Mason.

"I think we see a nice historical trail developing," Bennett said.

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