The American Battle Monuments Commission provides preview of new visitor center at Netherlands American Cemetery
ARLINGTON, Va. (November 8, 2022) — The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) provided a first look today of its new visitor center at the Netherlands American Cemetery (NEAC) located in Magraten, Netherlands. Once complete, the facility will highlight the site’s rich history and the long and unique relationship with the local Dutch community.
At today’s event, the NEAC facility began to take on its finished shape with the installation of a massive concrete fascia through an unusual and complex multi-day construction process. The fascia will be slowly and carefully lifted over the course of several days by a coordinated system of hydraulic jacks to its final position where it will permanently hang from the visitor center’s roof structure, allowing light to enter behind and giving it the appearance of floating in place.
“It’s easy tell the visitors who come to the Netherlands American Cemetery all about our facts and figures, but we also want them to feel a connection when they come here, and that is the importance of this project,” said Karen Wurzburger, ABMC’s director of Visitor Services and Interpretation. “We hope to enrich what is already an emotional experience for our visitors by sharing the local history of the war, and how so many Americans laid down their lives here.”
The project’s fascia is formed out of one continuous piece of concrete and steel, the fascia weighs 386 tons (772,000 pounds) and is approximately 29 meters (95 feet) long per side, four meters (12.4 feet) high, and 30 centimeters (12 inches) thick.
The ABMC selected KAAN Architecten to design the building, which is a seamless blending of meticulously-crafted modern architecture and the cemetery’s historic and serene landscape, creating a subtle tension with the natural environment.
“We tried to be very respectful to the surroundings,” said Nicki van Loon, architect with KAAN Architecten, noting considerations in the planning and design process of the site location and materials used. “It’s a very special way of building concrete. Instead of doing it all in one go, we did it in different layers. It’s a buildup of five different concrete mixes, all with a slightly different shade hinting at the color of the monument and complimenting the site.”
Van Roey is the general contractor for design and construction, overseeing the complex and groundbreaking process.
“It was a year of firsts for us,” said Kyo De Fraeye, Van Roey Project Director. “It was the first time we’re doing the jacking up, it was the first time that we made this type of special concrete, and it was also the first time that this has ever been done in our view in the world.”
The new visitor center will help ABMC innovatively tell the World War II story, including the local importance to the site and the U.S. military history of the region, to the tens of thousands of visitors who visit NEAC each year.
“Evolution will be the key to providing our visitors with the in-depth storytelling experiences they are looking for to connect with this site and, especially, the individuals commemorated here,” said Jason Bordelon, NEAC superintendent. “We know a facility like this is in high demand here, and we look forward to its opening and to sharing this new and powerful experience with all those who pass through our gates in the years to come.”
This will be the tenth such location for ABMC worldwide, is slated to open to the public in 2023.
“Next year will mark ABMC’s 100th anniversary, so it is truly a fitting time for us to introduce this new facility as we look to the next century and how we continue our work of communicating to the next generation the stories of sacrifice that made this site necessary nearly 80 years ago,” said Wurzburger.
*ABMC has worked with the following partners in the construction of the new visitor center at NEAC: KAAN Architecten; the National Park Service; Denver Service Center; Haley-Sharpe Design; Color-Ad; and iNeX Architecten.
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About American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC):
The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) operates and maintains 26 cemeteries and 32 federal memorials, monuments, and commemorative plaques in 17 countries throughout the world, including the United States. The four memorials in the United States are: the World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.; the Honolulu memorial located within the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii; the West Coast Memorial located within the Presidio National Park in San Francisco, Calif; and the East Coast Memorial located within Battery City Park in New York, N.Y. Since March 4, 1923, ABMC’s sacred mission remains to honor the service, achievements, and sacrifice of more than 200,000 U.S. service members buried and memorialized at our sites.