After three months of public input in person and online, the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation has selected a new design based on what it heard from the community.
The design, called the “pavilion scheme” when proposed last month, is a similar design to the original design proposed in 2014, but architect Moshe Safdie lowered the height of the museum by 21 feet by moving the conference center into the pavilion section, which also includes lobbies and classrooms.
“We really strove to make sure it feels that it fits in the context of the site,” museum CEO Joe Daniels said when presenting the design Tuesday night at Wando High School.
The original design was rejected in January by the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission for being taller than the town’s height limits on new construction. When Joe Daniels became CEO of the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation in April, he said he would go back to the drawing board and revise the museum designs with public input.
“We feel the process ... has not been a perfect process, but it’s been good, and we feel that, ultimately, the process has integrity,” Daniels said.
Daniels acknowledged that public design processes like this are often contentious — “It’s all over the place, and that’s how it should be.”
“But the way that these things calm down, the way that these things become real is by one word: It’s ‘progress,’” he said. “You start finishing the design, you start doing construction, and people see this national symbol take shape.”
He added that he hopes the conversation remains civil as discussions about the museum design continue.
“As much as possible, we as an organization are trying to conduct our discussions as civilly as possible, and I know everyone in this room shares that,” he said.
Pausing for a new idea
Daniels said the foundation is holding off for a few weeks before submitting its design to Mount Pleasant for approval because of an idea Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie brought to Daniels last week.
“All that matters to any of us who work on this project is to make sure that this project is successful and comes to fruition,” Daniels said. “We don’t want to drag this process out any longer, it’s been going on for a while ... but we feel that we have a fiduciary responsibility to the public and an obligation to the recipients and to the students that will come here to hear any good ideas before finally submitting our plan to the town.”
The idea Haynie mentioned at a Patriots Point Development Authority meeting Friday is having a public-private partnership design and build the physical museum, allowing the foundation to raise and spend money on exhibits instead. He said this morning that he doesn’t deserve all the credit for the idea.
“This whole battle is over architecture, when it ought to be about how many billions can we put into the experience, not into the building,” Haynie said.
The mayor said a 30-day delay isn’t enough to get the partnership completely off the ground, but, “it’s enough to get it started” and have an outline to present to the museum foundation’s board of directors.
“The Medal of Honor Museum board is going to have to decide if after six years and doing nothing but going backwards, they’re willing to bet the whole farm on the cost it’s going to take to build this design that they seem slavishly devoted to,” Haynie said.
Haynie said the foundation has yet to prove that its design for the museum is feasible and sustainable, which are key to constructing the museum on Patriots Point.
“I’m trying to introduce another element of collaboration that I think will result in a beautiful museum that is feasible, fitting and sustainable,” he said.
Haynie did not attend the meeting at Wando High School.
“I’ve had enough of the way they are dealing with us,” he said. “I went to the last meeting and we were told there would be many options and new designs, and you had the original design.”
Exhibit design begins
Daniels said the foundation is working to design the interior of the museum with Patrick Gallagher, president and owner of museum planning and design firm Gallagher & Associates. Gallagher helped design the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France and several presidential libraries, among other projects.
Daniels said Gallagher’s involvement in the Medal of Honor Museum was one of the reasons he decided to become CEO of the foundation. He said the design of the exhibits will involve public input as it moves forward.
“During the exhibition process, as we develop these narratives, it is really important to bring the community and all of our stakeholders, particularly the military side, along with the stories,” he said.
Gallagher said the exhibits in the Medal of Honor Museum have the opportunity to be life-changing to everyone who visits.
“This, for me and my career, is probably one of the most important museums I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “You don’t get to meet many people who are the quality of a Medal of Honor recipient.”
Movement on the board
The Medal of Honor Museum Foundation announced Wednesday that five new members have joined its board of directors, bringing the total number of board members to 11.
The museum also received a $1 million donation from the board members previously elected.
The new board members include Maj. William Swenson, a Medal of Honor recipient who’s on active duty in the Army; Matthew Zames, president and senior managing director of Cerberus Capital Management; Mike Hayes, senior vice president and head of strategic operations at Cognizant; Debra Burlingame, sister of the American Airlines pilot whose plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11; and Brad Meltzer, an author and television host.