Architectural Design Experience

06 Sep 2004|Darrel Rhea

I had an experience yesterday that literally touched, moved and inspired me. It was the result of a design that was so well conceived, planned and executed that it blew me away. An “Experience E-Ticket”

I was up early in Washington, D.C., on my way to the airport. I decided to drop by the Vietnam War Memorial to pay my respects to my brother, but was disappointed to find that it was closed off for repairs. Walking back towards the car I found myself drawn to the marble stairs of the Lincoln Monument. I climbed them as the summer sun rose from behind the towering Washington monument, its long shadow darkening the huge Reflecting Pool. I paused to take in the vista from the top of the stairs, and from there I could see only a couple of distant guards and a lone jogger. I turned and entered the tomb, alone, in silence.

Shafts of light streamed into the shadowy hall echoing up and illuminating Lincoln’s resolute face. Despite the massive scale and perspective, Abe seemed real and filled with emotion. The words of the Gettysburg address are carved into a huge alcove wall, lit with the sun’s reflection off of Lincoln’s statue. I drank in the meaning and context of those words, appreciating them more deeply than ever before. They filling me with awe.

I was suddenly conscious of a nation of millions committed to a set of ideals and principles, generations of individuals (including my blood relatives) who have sacrificed their comfort and their lives to sustain them. The greatness of the enterprise, the passion of its people, the power of its values all became clear. At that moment, I was more connected to the meaning of America and of being an American more than I have ever been.

I emerged from the shadows into the bright light like millions of others have done, and descended those gentle stairs a changed person.

It was not accident I felt those emotions and had those thoughts. My experience was conceived by a master designer and carefully engineered. Every detail about that space contributed. Knowing that did not lessen the impact; rather, I left inspired to hone my craft of creating meaningful experiences for others.

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