“I am talking about genuine peace — the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living — and the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.”
President John F. Kennedy, Address to American University
June 10, 1963
“[The Peace Corps volunteer is a living example of] [t]he idea that free and committed men and women can cross, even transcend, boundaries of culture and language, of alien tradition and great disparities of wealth, of old hostilities and new nationalisms, to meet with other men and women on the common ground of service to human welfare and human dignity.”
Sargent Shriver, Address to the Foreign Policy Association
December 11, 1963
Our design for a commemorative work to honor the Peace Corps expresses and embodies two ideas central to the Peace Corps’s ideals and values: peace (as in the dove, the wings of peace) and common ground (as a place, quite literally, where people come together to reflect on and celebrate the Corps’s service to human welfare and human dignity).
Our design, which we have titled “Common Ground”, is simultaneously sculpture, landform and architecture. It is a site-specific work that evolved from the constraints and possibilities of the triangular shape of a large traffic island at the intersection of Louisiana Avenue NW and First Street SW. The design inflects inward along Louisiana Avenue and then splits in two, creating separate wing-like shapes. These forms are, finally, fronted by a narrow tree-lined lawn that, together, mirror the triangular shape of the site.
The three spaces—North Wing, South Wing, and tree-lined lawn—symbolize the three goals of the Peace Corps.
• MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
• UNDERSTANDING AMERICANS:
Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served.
• EDUCATING AMERICANS:
Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
The North Wing symbolizes the goal of the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding abroad, in countries where it serves, of Americans. It is a physical manifestation of reaching out to and engaging with the world. The wing’s triangular shape leans in and rises up to a peak of 39 feet. Inside, a ramp spirals around a reflecting pool and leads up to a viewing platform, where visitors can look out at the Taft Memorial and the United States Capitol. The boldly-soaring design reflects self-confidence, fearlessness, commitment, and individual strength.
The South Wing symbolizes the Peace Corps’s goal of educating Americans at home about the people of countries served by the Corps. Its shape is lower and more intimate than the North Wing’s. A concrete bench is built into the wall and wraps around a reflecting pool, which contains a small stand of white birch trees and several large smooth rocks. The South Wing’s design reflects humility, thoughtfulness, compassion, and the importance of self-criticism. It is about becoming a better person or country by engaging with other people, communities, and countries.
The focal point of the South Wing is the PEACE BLACKBOARD, a large black slate slab that lines the interior above the long bench. Some of the slabs have printed quotes about the Peace Corps; others are blank, acting as an enormous blackboard where visitors are free to write their personal thoughts about the Peace Corps and its goals, as well as their own ideas about furthering peace in the world and serving humanity.
The grassy lawn in front of the wings is a place, a Common Ground, where, under the shade of trees, visitors can reflect on the Peace Corps, including its goal to make a difference, to help people in need around the world.