For the New York architect who designed it, Maryland's World War II Memorial will be a dream come true.
Secundino "Dino" Fernandez, 55, said he has won design competitions for memorials of various kinds since he was in college but that none of those projects materialized, usually for lack of funds.
Now, with work to begin on the monument in Anne Arundel County next month, the Cuban-born architect finally will see one of his designs through to completion -- and Maryland veterans will get a memorial years after the opening of state Korean and Vietnam war memorials.
Fernandez, whose firm, DAT Consultants Ltd., specializes in office and institutional design, was chosen from nearly 120 entries sent to the War Memorial Commission. He received $15,000 for the design of the project, which is to be completed next summer.
Designing memorials is "a real hobby with me, and it makes money," said Fernandez. "I won six competitions by the end of college and others since then, but this is the first one that will be built."
He said it usually takes a month to conceive and sketch a design but that he was so inspired this time that "everything fell together in just two days."
When the War Memorial Commission picked the spot for the memorial and requested design proposals, Fernandez was familiar with the site, the wide, sloping median of Route 450 at the Gov. Ritchie Memorial Overlook at the Old Severn River Bridge.
"I've passed the site many times. I taught at Old Dominion University in Virginia, and my son is in his second year at the University of Maryland in College Park," said Fernandez.
A seven-member jury of commission members and professionals studied designs from around the country and chose Fernandez's; the full commission agreed.
"When you enter a competition, you think about it a lot. You go see the location and then you plan the most adequate, least intrusive design you can think of," said Fernandez, a graduate of architecture schools at City College of New York and Columbia University.
His winning design calls for a four-sided amphitheater surrounded by a circle of 48 concrete piers, half of them connected by granite slabs etched with the names of 6,454 Marylanders who died in the war.
Fernandez said he studied Maryland's history and the symbolism the commission wanted to incorporate into the design. He also had to account for the scenic overlook and the Midshipmen's Memorial just below it.
Stone panels will be inscribed with information about Maryland's home-front activities and the history of World War II, in which about 273,000 Marylanders served. Mosaic maps will depict major battles, and the "ruptured duck," as veterans called the eagle on their discharge pin, will be in mosaic on the amphitheater floor.
"It usually takes four weeks to put all of your ideas together, two weeks to get the idea and two weeks to draw it," Fernandez said. "In this case, everything fell together in just two days; the inspiration just came rushing in. I united the square and the circle, which means unity, a tying together."
Fernandez explained his theory behind the design: "There was a desire for openness, so you could look into the memorial from outside. It's the idea of a room that is open to the outside, and then there's the view across to the Naval Academy."
Retired Brig. Gen. John F. Burk, chairman of the commission and member of the jury, said the panel spent about 14 hours one day in December 1995 examining the submissions, which were displayed anonymously.
The commission had sent applicants its requirements that the memorial honor military and civilian services and explain Maryland's role in World War II.
"You could eliminate a bunch the first time around," Burk said. The winnowing continued "until we got down to the final five and then it took almost as long to choose from among them as to get down to them."
The jury ranked its five top choices and submitted them to the full commission with its recommendation that Fernandez's design be chosen.
'It filled the bill'
"It just seemed to fit the site," said retired Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Dean, another member of the jury. "It filled the bill that we wanted, to honor those veterans and civilians who participated and those who lost their lives during the war."
Fernandez's design stood out because "it was circular and it would fit, and it had a centerpiece, the amphitheater, that drew attention to the story we're trying to tell," Dean said.
Roger K. Lewis, a Washington architect who was a member of the jury and then became a consultant to the commission on the final design, said Fernandez's original design was retained throughout the process.
'Easy to remember'
"The reason it was selected," said Lewis, a professor of architecture at the University of Maryland, "was because it was one of the few designs that was well presented, and you could immediately understand the intention. It embodied the commission's goals, and it was easy to remember, like the Vietnam Memorial."
With the basic design chosen, refinement began. Contrary to what happens in most such cases, Lewis said, "as we got increasingly real, the design got better. As the 'editing' went on, it actually improved the design. Usually this waters it down and dilutes it."
The state Board of Public Works will be asked Wednesday to approve a $1.8 million construction contract for Priceless Industries of Dundalk, which submitted the lowest qualified bid.
The General Assembly has appropriated $2.7 million for design and construction of the memorial.
It has been six years since Gov. William Donald Schaefer's appointment of the War Memorial Commission. "These things can take a long time, to get everything done that you have to do," Lewis said.
Tax-deductible contributions for the memorial may be sent to: Maryland World War II Memorial Commission, P.O. Box 22615, Baltimore 21203-4615.
Pub Date: 8/23/97