U.S.S. ARIZONA MEMORIAL

Ford Island; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

With Nicholas Gervasi

 

INTaR Journal, Rhode Island School of Design. Volume 08: Water as Catalyst

Forthcoming: Inflection Journal, University of Melbourne

fall, 2016

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​ONE - SITE

Because both the history of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona’s demise have been so thoroughly treated by scholarship in the past, we will refrain from repeating the narrative here and offer instead a short sketch of figures to set the stage, and hopefully to marshal a wider sense of recollection.

As early as 1927, the Japanese Navy War College had begun examinations of a hypothetical attack centered around Pearl Harbor. In 1928, (then) Captain Isoroku Yamamoto lectured on the subject [1]. By 1940 Yamamoto’s proposed attack on Pearl Harbor had been suggested and rejected on more than one occasion. It was only by threatening that he and the entire staff of representatives of his Combined Fleet would resign, that Yamamoto’s plans were finally approved in October. [2]

Just before dawn on December 7th, 1941, 353 Japanese aircraft launched from the decks of Yamamoto’s four heavy carriers; including 40 torpedo planes, 103 level bombers, 131 dive bombers, and 79 fighters [3]. The attack began at 7:55am and lasted only 75 minutes. 2,403 Americans were killed. A staggering 48.9% of those who died, perished on the U.S.S. Arizona alone; roughly one in two.

The bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona herself was particularly catastrophic. Eleven minutes after the first blast, at 8:06am, an 800 kilogram bomb struck the front of Turret 2 and ricocheted foward toward the starboard side, puncturing the deck off-center between Turrets 1 and 2 [4]. 7 seconds later, a colossal explosion tore the entire battleship in half. Within 9 minutes, the U.S.S. Arizona had sank 40 feet to the bottom of the harbor. Resultant fires in the vicinity burned for 2 days. The shockwave from the blast that destroyed the Arizona was so strong in fact, that it whipped out the fires blazing on the deck of the Vestal, a repair ship moored nearby[5].

Two theories have since been proposed that explain the blast, both of which deal with the location of the black-powder magazines stockpiled for the Arizona’s armaments in the forward section of the ship; supposedly detonated by the bomb’s unfortunately precise positioning [6]. Three sailors on board the Arizona were awarded Medals of Honor for their conduct during the disaster—the nations highest military honor [7].

Since the ship sank in the winter of 1941, the wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona has been leaking oil at a steadily increasing rate into the open water at Pearl Harbor. The day before her demise, on December 6th, the Arizona was fully fueled and held 1.5 million gallons in preparation for a trip to the mainland scheduled for the end of the month. While much of this oil fueled the fires and explosions which destroyed the ship, some 500,000 gallons still remained by the time the ordeal was over, and have been leaking from unidentified breaches in the hull interior for 75 years. The current rate of leakage is approximately 2-9 quarts of oil per day [8]. In 1989, the National Park Service conducted research on the wreckage site and published an extensive historical and archaeological report which included figures pertaining to the hull corrosion and structural integrity [9]. While the National Park Service has since concluded that the amount of oil streaming into the bay poses no chemical hazard, there remains the fear that a catastrophic collapse of the hull structure might release all of the oil at once, and do significant damage to the Harbor and surrounding Hawaiian coastline.

This incredible phenomenon, easily visible to the eye of an observer and occasionally in such large quantities as to appear even on satellite imaging, is temporary. The oil reservoirs housed within the confines of the Arizona’s corroding hull are draining now faster than ever before, and soon, the shimmering black scar that drifts from the tomb will dry up entirely and exist only as an obscure fixture of the Arizona’s early life after death.

 

Japanese report of estimated damages

Ford Island, aerial; October 22nd, 1941

Ford Island, aerial; December 7th 1941

Ford Island, aerial; December 8th 1941

Ford Island moorings, the day after the attack; oil visible draining into harbor, 1941

TWO - WATER

The existing monument on site at the shipwreck was designed by Alfred Preis and completed in 1962. Preis was an austrian born architect who was detained at the start of the war in an internment camp on Sand Island due to his nationality, considered an enemy of the country [10]. A competition for the memorial design was held by the U.S. Navy, stipulating the structure be in the form of a bridge that spans the wreckage. Preis’s design is a wholly metaphorical object, described in the form of representations and substitutions, of architecture for poetry and poetry for architecture. Preis’s bridge scheme employs 21 apertures cut into the main observation deck, which represent a 21 gun salute offered to the dead. A characteristic sag in the center which the architect likened to the heights of American pride prior to the war, the depths of despair during the global conflict, and the subsequent rise of American power that was to follow [11]. Critics at the time of the monuments dedication likened it to a crushed milk carton, and Preis’s son has since remarked that his father was outraged but maintained that the structure would be appreciated in time. However strong or weak any individual may come to decide such formal-conceptual connections are the fact remains that in the water beneath, the Tears of the Arizona are draining quietly away toward the sea and will eventually be only a memory all the same.

Preservationists and conservationists are in the habit of considering natural forces and pollutants as destructive processes. Put simply, environmental forces act to erode the object of note—constituting a base loss of material—and the attitude both employed and taught in this regard is usually to mitigate those forces of decay as well as possible. Unfortunately this frame of mind renders the architecture an object to be fossilized, and then that fossilization becomes the subject of apologetics targeted at characterizing the object in question a purely didactic thing, as though the highest form of preservation is intimately tied to pedagogy. But architects have long been in the practice of welcoming in, and re-interpreting environmental pressures critically; incorporating the aesthetics of decay into the conceptual and material heart of the structure.

 

U.S.S. Arizona BB-39 maiden voyage, Hudson River. 1916

END NOTES

[1] Stille, Mark. “Yamamoto Isoroku,” p. 17 - [2] Ibid. - [3] Figures issued by the National World War II Museum, in part of the exhibition “The D-Day Invasions in the Pacific,” December, 2001. - [4] Stillwell, Paul. “Battleship Arizona: An Illustrated History.” p. 267-78 - [5] Ibid., 228 - [6] Wright, Christopher C. “The U.S. Navy’s Study of the Loss of the Battleship Arizona.” p. 60-61, 287-88. - [7] The first was Lieutennant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, who recieved the Medal of Honor for his leadership on deck throughout the bombing, directing men and fighting fires. The second was Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, who remained on the bridge seeing to his duties as the Commander of Battleship Division One and the Senior Officer Present Afloat, remaining after the magazina explosion and was eventually killed in action when the bridge was struck directly. The third was Captain Franklin Van Valkenburgh, who remained on the bridge alongside Rear Admiral Kidd, seeing to his duties as the Ship Commander until the same blast took his life as well. - [8] National Park Service, website - [9] Lenihan, Daniel J. “Submerged Cultural Resources Study, USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark.” 1989. - [10]Shapiro, Teresa. “Arizona Memorial Seen as a Dedication to Peace.” Honolulu Star Bulletin, May 2002 - [11] Ibid

THREE - MONUMENT


The proposed monument elects to incorporate the water that flows over the wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona, creating a pre-fabricated, permanent registry of the leaking oil before the reservoir is emptied entirely. That registry of materials could then be extracted from the site and preserved independantly of the building itself. In effect the architecture is tasked with the derivation and creation of an entirely new, eternal artifact from the transient, polluted condition on site.

As the original design competition maintained—stipulated by the U.S. Navy—the monument takes the shape of a bridge spanning the ruins of the ship, though instead of transversing the site the bridge is oriented verticlly along the length of it and anchored just off the prow. This composition allows the structure to work along the major axis of oil drainage observed on site, and perform as a collection vessel more effectively than would a transverse orientation. Along the starboard side of the ruins, seven concrete pylons are anchored and house seven salvaged Pennsylvania-Class aircraft handling cranes, which in turn support the cantilevering armature from above as it spans the Arizona’s hull and slopes downward into the water.
The entire structure is made of sevral prefabricated component parts and could be assembled from the crane’s superstructure not unlike a tension bridge would be built today. In section, the triangular profile provides less material than a square section and thus less weight as well as less points of connection to negotiate. Suspended by a network of floatation pistons tied into the central columns, a main platform sits level atop the surface of the water and provides the major route of access along the length of the hall.

The monument consists of three major rooms: First, an antechamber serving to dock the harbor ferry and bring visitors to and from the site. The antechamber is likewise the structural anchor point of the bridge armature. Second, a memorial room located directly over the spot between turrets I and II where the bomb that detonated the black-powder magazines punctured the deck. A submerged industrial planter houses a single cypress tree, which grows in the center of memorial room some twenty-five feet over the bomb’s precise entry point.

At the end of the structure, as the depth of the water rises up to four feet, is located a small hypostyle hall comprised of 8-foot white travertine columns anchored into the bridge armature. The location of this open-ended memorial room serves to collect as much of the draining oil as possible and funnel the pollutants into the structure, where the travertine colums are to stain and blacken over a period of time. At the point where the reservoirs are emptied the columns themselves can be removed from the structure, now a permanent registry of the Tears of the Arizona, and moved to a separate location where they would be placed under the tenure of a material conservation plan, and exhibited.

What is important in considering the decaying forces of pollution, corrosion, and erosion that are causing not only the deterioration of the Arizona’s ruins—but would cause the deterioration of the monument as well, is to recognize that there is a temporal event on site reaching the end of its life-span. Rather than propose a wholly metaphorical connection between the whimsy of a particular form and some more palatable conceptual or poetic inclination, architecture might be considered as a mortal object itself. That is, a temporary construction, which was designed with it’s deconstruction firmly in mind. In order to preserve the Tears we thus propose an object not of metaphor, but one of metonym. Not of substitution, but of extension.

The story of the architecture is the active process of producing an artifact that demands to be conserved. That a point of deconstruction is implicit in the construction of the armature and means that the architecture is subject to the same temporal forces which threaten the wreckage and the Tears alike—except with respect to the monument, the incorporation of decay constitutes the making of a relic as opposed to the loss of one. Once the panels are stained, if they are left in the water, they will be brined over and stripped of that texture again in time. What materials are prepared and offered by the building must thus be collected up from the water at the correct moment in order to be saved.

Preservationists and conservationists are in the habit of considering natural forces and pollutants as destructive processes. Put simply, environmental forces act to erode the object of note—constituting a base loss of material—and the attitude both employed and taught in this regard is usually to mitigate those forces of decay as well as possible. Unfortunately this frame of mind renders the architecture an object to be fossilized, and then that fossilization becomes the subject of apologetics targeted at characterizing the object in question a purely didactic thing, as though the highest form of preservation is intimately tied to pedagogy. But architects have long been in the practice of welcoming in, and re-interpreting environmental pressures critically; incorporating the aesthetics of decay into the conceptual and material heart of the structure.

CONTENTS

ABOUT

FOREWORD

CONTACT 67 CENOTAPH

Cape Canaveral, FL

wn. 2017

FOLLY AT GAMLA UPPSALA

Uppland Province, Sweden

wn. 2016

DOG SKIN HOUSE

Unsited

spr. 2018

THE HOUSE FOR THE DRUID

Rome, Italy

sm. 2012

HEISENBERGTURM

Heligoland, Germany

fall. 2012

PHX2065

Phoenix, AZ

sm. 2015

USS ARIZONA MEMORIAL

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

fall. 2016

MU 01 - 06

Arcadia, Greece

sm. 2014