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Currents: a winning design

Kelsie "Hoolie" Lee is a senior Graphic Design major from Wilmot, N.H., and a volunteer firefighter with New London Fire Department with more than five years experience. After graduating, she hopes to start her own business doing graphic design for non-profit agencies and organizations.

On June 15, 2009 Governor Lynch signed into law RSA 4:9, establishing a committee to oversee the design, construction and maintenance of a memorial to public works employees who have died in the course of performing their duties on behalf of a municipality, county or the state. Last summer Lee's father, New London Public Works Director Richard Lee, told her about the New Hampshire Public Workers' Memorial Design Competition, which was open to high school seniors and college students.

The memorial will be constructed on the grounds of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation Building in Concord. The committee had several requirements for the memorial: it had to represent the diverse workforce of New Hampshire Public Service Workers, the four seasons in which they perform their work, and the elements in which these men and women work. It was, Lee says, quite a task.

The Process

I knew this project would require a lot of time, skill and dedication and instantly began sketching ideas for the property that the committee had selected as the construction site. I realized the only landscape design knowledge I had was what I had learned in my Pathway course, Art in the Landscape/Landscape as Art with Professor Loretta Barnett. Thankfully, I still had my text books. I took them from my bookcase and began reading chapters of relevance and found some ideas to include in my design.

I continued sketching, knowing that my final drawing and information was due September 30. With the start of my senior year, though, my designs fell to the back burner. The night before the presentation was due I did a few more final sketches and came to one that I felt was a great reflection of what the committee was looking for.

Remembering what I had learned in my Pathway and other art classes I knew this design was strong and one in which I felt confident. I utilized the unique geometric shape of the property, as though the memorial were meant to be there all along. Additionally, I added several personal touches that create a one-of-a-kind memorial but have immense meaning.

The first of these unique touches is the use of granite throughout the memorial. Black granite creates the four boulder-like signs that will be etched with the names of the deceased. The black granite is also mimicked in the double-sided sign that will signify the site as the New Hampshire Public Workers' Memorial. I chose black granite because of the contrast it will create in the landscape as well as the white tone it creates when etched. This is not the only place I decided to use granite – it is also included in its grey, natural form to create the benches that will allow visitors to sit and reflect on the lives which the memorial is meant to honor.

The next step to incorporate the ideas of the committee is the installation of 24 shovels that will be cut out of weathered materials – diamond plate and steel. This weathered materials create a lovely rust color to contrast the black granite and shows the resilience of the men and women in the public works force. Additionally, having 24 of them signifies the hours in a day when the public workers can be found at work or on call.

I wasn't sure how to incorporate the four seasons in which they also work, but it came to me. My design is based on fours - there are 24 shovels, a multiple of four, there are four black granite signs to be etched with the names of the deceased, and there are four benches.

My entire design is reflective of the fact that I can visit this space. In December of 2005, I lost a 20-year-old friend in a work zone accident here in New London. The fact that my friend Ryan's family and other friends can go to this area and reflect on his short life is one that drove my design. Additionally, I designed on the “what-if?” What if it hadn't been Ryan who died that day, but had been my father?

I submitted my design in Concord and was named one of three finalists. The committee asked me to make a short presentation of my concepts and the drive behind my design. I was surprised by the feedback I received from the committee and felt their concerns should be addressed. We discussed the idea of adding the names of those who will fund the project and creating a more significant entrance. We also discussed the availability and cost of black granite.

They told me the committee would meet on January 11 to make the final selection of a design. January 11 came and went with no word. I found out the meeting had been postponed, and then the rescheduled meeting was postponed. Finally, the committee met to discuss the finalists and I got a phone call that my design was chosen.

Soon I will meet with the committee and a landscape architect to create a more proportional design and one that can be viewed in three-dimensional form. The next step is to hold fund-raisers as this project will be funded entirely by tax-deductible donations.

I look forward to working with the committee through the entire project. I want to see the project come full-circle as it has immense meaning for me and many of my friends. I honestly believe that the education I received during my four years here at Colby-Sawyer helped me to create a design that the committee believed was strong. I now can see how far my education will take me.

The Design

When I learned about the design competition I was intrigued as to where the site was, how many people would enter, and whether or not I would have the time to create a compelling, well-designed concept. I found myself creating sketch after sketch, trying to achieve my goal, and finally I found it. My inspiration came from the fact that if chosen, my design would create a place for families to reflect on the lives they have lost, and I will be able to remember the friend I lost in a work zone accident.

I decided to utilize the odd, geometric shape of the site. As such, my walkway mimics the layout of the site, the exception being on the side where the four slabs of black granite are located. By mimicking this shape, the memorial looks like it was custom built rather than a generic design placed on a property. I decided to create the walkway from pavement that had been printed to look like brick, though I believe it would be beneficial to leave the pavement its dark, charcoal color. This allows for easier maintenance, especially during the winter months.

I then tried to figure out how to incorporate many ideas and concepts I had in mind. I wanted to represent the four seasons in which public workers perform their jobs and the 24 hours that constitute our day in which these workers are often on-call or working. To bring these concepts to life you will see that the memorial is primarily constructed of four black granite slabs that will be cut to look like boulders. These four slabs represent the four seasons that we experience here in New Hampshire. Directly across from the slabs you will see 24 small blocks. These blocks, which are actually shovels created from weathered steel and diamond plate, are various heights and represent the 24 hours of our day.

The interior of the walkway is lined by three-quarter-inch blue crushed stone. This stone, when walked upon, will create a soft crunching noise, a somber, yet comforting noise. This stone would be walked on when visitors access the four grey granite reflection benches that also line the walkway. I decided that grey granite would be a good choice as it would create a contrast to the black granite of the memorial and pay respect to our home, The Granite State.

The three large bushes behind the memorial are Forsythia bushes, chosen for their lush yellow blooms; yellow is the color of remembrance. Their placement is not overbearing and creates a lovely backdrop for the black granite. In the middle of the walkway there is a large area for a beautiful garden created from perennials with varying bloom dates and heights.

Additionally, there will be a sign on the property between the black granite slabs and the weathered shovels. This sign would be constructed from black granite and etched on both sides with “New Hampshire Public Workers' Memorial.” By etching both sides visitors will be able to read it while in the memorial and while driving to or by it.

There is an element missing from my memorial, and that is the presence of the United States flag and the New Hampshire state flag. This is because I have not been able to decide where would be the best fit for them or if they are even needed.

My design is very basic, but I believe it conveys a strong message through its simplicity. It creates a place for reflection, sadness, strength and growth – everything a memorial should stand for.

As the award-winning designer, Lee will receive a $1,200 scholarship at the New Hampshire Road Agents Association's Mountain of Demonstrations. She will also make a presentation at the New Hampshire Public Works Association's Annual Meeting in May.

-Kelsie "Hoolie" Lee '11