Reflecting Pool

A single ceremonial flame floating on a star-shaped fountain and reflecting pool forms the centerpiece of the Memorial. As it attracts the eye, the still water subtly touches the heart, creating a profoundly moving experience.

The flame rests on a star-shaped fountain, just above a broad triangular reflecting pool, creating a platform that looks out to the Capitol. The different heights of each pool allow them to be visually engaging for both standing and wheelchair-bound visitors. Meanwhile, the quiet flow of the water is a reminder of how disabled veterans, with patience, can overcome personal obstacles and find new meaning and purpose in their lives.

“As designers, we wanted to make the pools as flawless as possible, adding to the purity of the star and the beauty of the flame,” said Jim Garland, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Fluidity Design Consultants.

In fact, the simplicity of the Memorial’s design artfully conceals several carefully conceived engineering issues. To begin with, the Memorial’s star-shaped fountain and reflecting pool were designed to function independently, although visually they appear to be connected. Both bodies of water are constructed as monolithic forms of black granite with all piping and mechanical elements hidden below pedestal pavers. During the winter months, each will be drained.

To enhance the simplicity of the Memorial, the reflecting pool was designed with an infinity edge, so a thin layer of water can continually flow smoothly and evenly over the three sides, before it is recycled back into the pool system at a perimeter grate.

“Visitors will get a magical feeling from this broad, angular and very still reflecting pool,” said Garland. “Even though the wind will pattern the surface, the water will be quiet under most conditions.”

In fact, the reflecting pool incorporates some hidden water flow management techniques to prevent wind gusts from creating deep pools or dry spots. For example, a narrow slot runs around the top perimeter of the reflecting pool, allowing the water to flow out smoothly, without the turbulence that would occur with a traditional, nozzle-type of design.

“In this way, the water can ‘fight back’ if the wind is blowing against the flow,” Garland said. “As a result, the surface of the water will be flawless under most conditions.”

For the star fountain, the Fluidity team solved another challenge: finding a way to make the water flow smoothly beneath the split stone surface and inscribed lettering at the base of the star. “We used our artistic and engineering skills to soften those passages, so the water can flow around the star without making a mess.”

Adding the right watery sounds to the fountain and the pool was another issue, since still water makes no sound by itself. Garland’s team created a carefully shaped underground chamber around the perimeter of the reflecting pool to catch the water.

“When the water falls into the chamber, there will be a resonant, echoing sound that will be carried to the surface by a slender slot,” Garland said. “Visitors will hear the water, which will help to mask the surrounding street noise, even though they can’t see the source of the sound.”