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Building a Tribute
A Memorial for Minnesota's Military Families, St. Paul Capitol Mall

by Theodore Lee, ASLA, LEED AP, Director of Landscape Architecture, HGA Architects and Engineers in Minneapolis


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At the eastern end of the promenade of the Minnesota Military Family Tribute on the St. Paul Capitol Mall is a crushed stone surfaced area with 'Story Stones.' Each stone represents one of Minnesota's 87 counties. Story Stones is a visual connection between loved ones deployed for military duty and their families at home. Correspondences sent between soldiers and family members from the Civil War to the present are etched onto the stones, providing a window into the lives of military families and their sacrifices. The stones were installed by Margolis Co., and engraved by Stone & Steel Design. The two etched stones (back to front) read:

"Be a good girl Mary...Daddy will come home some day again."--1945 Stearns

"There is no language that can describe, no pen, picture, or painting that can or ever will illustrate the scenes that transpired."--1862 Waseca


The Minnesota Military Family Tribute is the latest addition to a growing family of monuments along the Minnesota Capitol Mall in St. Paul. From the steps of the Beaux-Arts Minnesota State Capitol designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert in 1905, the rolling 18-acre mall fans outward to include the Minnesota World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and other monuments that draw thousands of visitors annually.

Located along the southern half of the Capitol Mall, the Minnesota Military Family Tribute anchors the military memorials to pay tribute to Minnesota's military families. Rather than tied to a single war or event, the Family Tribute honors the spouses, significant others, children, parents, grandparents, siblings and others who provided home-front support to military personnel, from the Civil War to the unfolding Middle East conflict.

As such, the Family Tribute holds deep meaning for all Minnesota's military and nonmilitary families--and hopefully inspires other states to build similar tributes.

Planning
The Minnesota Military Family Tribute grew from the vision of William J. "Bill" Popp, of Popp Communications. In November 2004, Popp established the Minnesota Military Family Foundation to assist military families. In June 2009, he promoted the idea to construct a tribute that honors military families. To realize his dream, Popp created the Minnesota Military Family Tribute (MMFT) 501(c)3 organization, with a mission to build a tribute that would forever honor every military and veteran family member--past, present and future. Working with the Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board, the MMFT sponsored a competition to design a tribute in front of the Veterans Services Building. A jury of military veterans and designers unanimously selected HGA Architects and Engineers in November 2010 to design the Family Tribute--the first such tribute in the United States, which was dedicated on June 13, 2015.

 

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The Gold Star Table at the walkway's western end recognizes the sacrifice of 'Gold Star Families.' Gold Star is a symbol used since 1917 to honor the loss of loved ones in military service. The table, representative of the family gathering place, is crafted from bronze by MG McGrath. It has a five-point foundation with a polished surface and is lit by LEDs. Northern hemisphere constellations shine through perforations in the table's surface to create a guide to the night sky. Polaris, the North Star, is emphasized as a constant navigational guide home and also refers to Minnesota's state motto: L'Etoile du Nord, Star of the North. The St. Paul, Minn., city standard pedestrian lighting standard is the polycarbonate 'Globe' luminaire illuminated by LG-18 LEDs. The city standard lighting pole has a stylized Washington base.



Design Details
Through landscape, hardscape and monuments, the 1.5-acre Family Tribute explores the concept of home and family through spatial experiences, formal seasonal plantings, and geological artifact tied to the celestial sky. Three main design elements unify the Family Tribute--the Walkway, Story Stones and the Gold Star Table. These motifs reaffirm the themes "Support Our Troops" and "Take Care of My Family."

The curving tree-lined "Thank You Military and Veteran Family Walkway" embraces the Capitol Mall veterans memorials and connects the two major elements of the Family Tribute--Story Stones on the east and the Gold Star Table on the west. The graceful arc responds to the seasons with rows of maples trees that provide dappled shade in the summer, vibrant colors in the fall and gray bark against freshly fallen snow in the winter. Red flowering gardens at each end of the walkway invite visitors in, where they are inspired to Remember Everyone Deployed (R.E.D.).

 

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The 1.5-acre Family Tribute on the southern end of the St. Paul Mall in Minnesota explores the concept of home and family through spatial experiences, formal seasonal plantings and geological artifact tied to the celestial sky. The rolling 18-acre mall fans outward to include the Minnesota World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and other monuments that draw thousands of visitors annually.
Rendering: HGA Architects and Engineers



The Story Stones comprise 87 large stones representing the geological heritage of each of Minnesota's 87 counties. Arranged along the promenade's eastern end in a field of crushed stone, the Story Stones are a visual connection between loved ones that are deployed and their families at home.

Correspondences sent between soldiers and family members from the Civil War to the present are etched onto the stones, providing a window into the lives of military families and their sacrifices.

 

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The Minnesota Military Family Tribute is on the southern end of the St. Paul Capitol Mall (green hued area). The submarine-shaped grey outline at the top of the red-dotted circle is the Minnesota State Capitol, currently closed to the public, as it undergoes a three-year restoration and repair project that is expected to reopen in early 2017. The Minnesota State Capitol was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in the Renaissance Revival style and completed in 1905. It's said to be the second largest self-supported marble dome in the world, with 23 different types of stone that include 16 varieties of marble sourced from around the world, plus granites and limestones from Minnesota.
Rendering: HGA Architects and Engineers



The Gold Star Table at the walkway's western end recognizes the sacrifice of Gold Star families. Made of bronze, the table recalls the traditional table where families gather to share dinner, stories and laughter--a familiar symbol of domesticity, respect and solemnity.

 

 

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In line with the Gold Star Table is the 12' tall steel sculpture "Monument to the Living" by Rodger Brodin. It depicts a returning Minnesota soldier in full combat gear. In the background is the 186' tall copper-clad dome of the Cathedral of Saint Paul on Summit Avenue on Cathedral Hill, overlooking downtown St. Paul.



A five-point foundation with a polished surface supports the table and signifies the Gold Star, a symbol used since 1917 to acknowledge the loss of a loved one in military service. Throughout the planning the design team searched for themes that were personal and transcendent. One of the most powerful metaphors is the sky, the moon and the stars, which connect military families when their soldiers are deployed. Northern hemisphere constellations shine through penetrations in the table's surface and create a guide to the night sky. Polaris, the North Star, is emphasized as a constant navigational guide home, and also refers to Minnesota's state motto: L'Étoile du Nord, Star of the North.

Today, the Minnesota Military Family Tribute stands as a lasting thank you to Minnesota's military families, appropriately at home on the Capitol Mall.

 

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The colored concrete under the Gold Star Table is by Bulach Custom Rock. The specified seating here is 6'-long ipe slated benches ('Trio'). Backless benches were also specified. The tall ornamental trees (right) are 'Autumn Brilliance' serviceberry; the walkway trees (left) are 'Autumn Blaze' maples (Max Tree Farm). The red flowering garden plants, inspired by "Remember Everyone Deployed" (R.E.D.), include 'Brilliant' poppy, 'Ruby Stella' daylily and 'Como Park' roses. The trees and plantings were installed by Margolis Co.



______________________

Project Team Client: Minnesota Military Family Tribute
Owner: State of Minnesota
Dedication Ceremony: June 13, 2015
Size: 1.5 Acres
Project Cost: $1,000,000

 

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The curving tree-lined "Thank You Military and Veteran Family Walkway" connects the two major elements of the Family Tribute--Story Stones (pictured) on the east and the Gold Star Table on the west. The graceful arc of 'Autumn Blaze' maples trees provide dappled shade in the summer, vibrant fall colors and gray bark against freshly fallen snow in the winter.



HGA Project Team
Principal: James Goblirsch, AIA, LEED AP
Project Manager / Design Team Leader: Theodore Lee, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP
Landscape Architecture
Emanouil Spassov, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP
Trygve Hansen, ASLA, PLA, LEED AP
Karl Krause, ASLA, PLA
Ross Altheimer, ASLA, PLA, Associate AIA, FAAR
Architecture: Eric Amel, AIA
Engineering
-Civil: Brad Roath, PE, LEED AP, Kenny Horns, PE, LEED AP, Renee Wait
-Electrical: Leigh Harrison, PE, Zach Poynter, PE
-Structural: Paul Asp, PE, Joy Beers, PE, John Ellingson, PE
Contracting
-Concrete Contractor: Bulach Custom Rock, LLC
-Earthwork/Demolition: Kamish Excavation, Inc.
-Electrical: Choice Electric, Inc.
-General: Meisinger Construction Co., Inc.
-Irrigation: Northway Irrigation, Inc.
-Landscape: Margolis Co.
Construction Admin: Annette Hardy, Mary Kirk
Cost Estimating: Joe Tarlizzo, LEED AP, CPC
Engraver (Story Stone): Stone & Steel Design
Geotechnical Inspection: Braun Intertec Corp.
Lighting Design: Chrysanthi Stockwell, NCQLP-LC, LEED AP
Specifications: Gerhard Guth, AIA CBO CSI CCS LEED AP
Astronomy Consultant: Mike Lynch, WCCO
Graphic & Written Communic.: Ashley Absalom
Gold Star Table
-Electrical Contractor: Cap Electrical, Inc.
-Fabricator: MG McGrath Inc.
-Lighting Supplier: TSR Lighting
Interpretive Signage Fabricator: Advantage Signs & Graphics, Inc.
Minnesota Department of Administration
Real Estate and Construction Services Ryan Allen, Project Manager
Gordon Christofferson, Construction Project Operations Manager
Kathy Grochowski, Executive Secretary State Designer Selection Board
Sherry Van Horn, Business Operations Manager
Talia Landucci Owen, Contracts Specialist
Jeanne Caturia, Office & Administrator Specialist
Plant Management
Anne Johnson, Public Relations Manager
Bruce Dzieweczynski, Building Maintenance Coordinator
Gene Peterman, Management Analyst
Joe Dinnebier, Grounds Support Service Manager
Barry Waters, Groundskeeper
Jay Johnston, Groundskeeper
Howard Hiipakka, Electrical Shop
Chad Olson, Electric Shop
Materials Management
Susan Groth, CPPB, Acquisition Management Specialist
Debbie Lerdahl, Document Analyst
Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board
Paul Mandell, Executive Secretary
Nancy Stark, Past Executive Secretary (Ret.)
Ted Lentz AIA, President, Cass Gilbert Society
Bryan Carlson FASLA, Advisor
Thomas Blanck RA, Advisor
Paul Mellblom AIA, Advisor
Rosemary McMonigal AIA, Past Advisor
Minnesota Historical Society: Tom Braun, Senior Objects Conservator
Minnesota State Council on Disability: Margot Imdieke, Accessibility Specialist
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs
Larry Shellito, Commissioner
Nicole Peine Executive II, Commissioner's Office
Military Family Tribute
William "Bill" Popp, Chairman
Teri Popp, President
Mary Niemeyer, Past President
Dorothy Halverson
Larry Shellito, MDVA Commissioner
Kate Miller
Jenifer Skjerven
Laura Chin







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