A March 13 release from the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation


The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation today announced the selection of John Ronan Architects to design the foundation’s namesake memorial, the first national memorial dedicated to press freedom and journalists who have lost their lives in service to that cause. The selection of the designer for the memorial marks a major milestone in the process leading up to the construction of the memorial, which was approved by Congress and received federal approval to be built at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Over the coming months, John Ronan FAIA and his team will work with the foundation’s leadership to establish a final design proposal to be presented to various agencies and commission.


John Ronan Architects is an internationally recognized design firm based in Chicago known for innovation, exploration of materiality, and rigorous attention to detail. The firm has received multiple American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Awards for its buildings, including the Poetry Foundation, Gary Comer Youth Center, and the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where John Ronan is the John & Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair Professor in Architecture. John is a past recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, and his firm was a competition finalist for the Obama Presidential Center.


“Following a rigorous design team selection process, John Ronan Architects was selected because of his sound grasp of our vision for the memorial, as well as his creativity and attention to detail,” said David Dreier, Chairman of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. “Equally important, we were inspired by his unique and compelling design concept, which calls for the use of transparent materials to convey themes of clarity and light to reinforce the importance of the work of journalists, photojournalists and a free press.”


At its core, the memorial honors the lives lost in pursuit of the truth and celebrates the First Amendment rights in American democracy. The design concept outlines a compelling memorial experience that engages with the themes of transparency and light, reinforcing the importance of these factors to the work of journalists and to a free press. It will feature a layered assemblage of transparent elements that would appear different from all three sides of the triangular site, alluding to the multiple sides of a story that a journalist must analyze to discern the truth and encouraging visitors to investigate each space through their own journey. Just as journalists play a watchdog role in democracy, the design will highlight the memorial’s diligent watch over the Capitol dome, visible above the memorial’s eastern rim.


“After receiving and reviewing so many thoughtful submissions, we knew we made the right decision in the selection of John Ronan Architects,” said Barbara Cochran, President of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. “Their team delivered ideas that crystallized the vision we have always wanted for this memorial: to be a place of reflection and appreciation, for learning about press freedom, and most importantly, that honors the journalists who lost their lives in service of freedom.”


“The memorial will be a journey of discovery that unfolds slowly, space by space, like a story that casts the visitor in the role of investigative journalist,” said John Ronan, founding principal of John Ronan Architects. “I look forward to working with the foundation to create an inspiring place of remembrance which honors those who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of the truth and celebrates the First Amendment foundations upon which democracy is built.”


The 10-month selection process was led by Pulitzer-Prize winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger and a 10-member design team selection committee. The committee initially received more than 50 proposals from a diverse cohort of architects and designers from the U.S. and abroad. John Ronan Architects was selected from four finalists, who were asked to present their work and concepts to the selection committee. In addition to Goldberger, Cochran and Dreier, the selection committee includes Mia Lehrer, landscape architect; Milton Curry, professor of architecture at Cornell; Joe Day, architect; Blair Kamin, architecture critic; Eden Rafshoon, president of the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies; Alan Harwood, partner in AECOM; and Vincent Randazzo, project director of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation.