A Symbol of Gratitude: The Tri An Monument Competition

©Grega Vezjak Architect


For residents of Louisville, Kentucky, it would come as no surprise that the city’s Vietnamese community would support a competition commemorating the friendship and support of the Americans both in Vietnam and the U.S. and our welcome for the Vietnamese people who have arrived in this country. The foundation established to realize this concept was named “Tri An,” which means “deep gratitude.” According to the competition brief, “It is important to recognize the numerous humanitarian efforts and good deeds done by the U.S. military and the many Americans who went far beyond the call of duty to help the South Vietnamese people.

As is the case with many non-government supported projects, this one also had a patron who lent his support to project, Yung Nguyen, the local founder and patron of the Tri Ân foundation, also the founder of a high-tech firm. To administer the competition, the foundation engaged the services of a local architecture firm, Bravura, which had a notable track record in memorial competitions, having previously acted as professional adviser for the acclaimed Patriots Peace Memorial competition in Louisville.

In setting the bar for the anticipated winner, the competition brief stated that the design:

  • Be unique;
  • Be dramatic, timeless, and contemplative;
  • Have many levels of meaning;
  • Have the seductive power to invite a closer look, even to the casual observer;
  • Be in harmony with the landscape, and be compatible with the other features and uses of the park in which it will reside;
  • Be a creative use of the hillside site; incorporating its views, topography, and natural wooded backdrop;
  • Successfully convey the Overriding Purpose and Interpretive Themes stated in these Guidelines.

To attract the widest possible audience, the organizers decided on an international, open and anonymous, two-stage competition as the best model. It was decided to award three finalists the opportunity to have their designs equally reviewed for the possible realization of the project in a second phase. For their efforts, each was to receive compensation of US $4,000.

To adjudicate the process, a four-person jury was empaneled:
• Susan Rademacher, FASLA
  Landscape Lecturer, Writer, Curator, Consultant & Designer
• Yung Nguyen
  Immigrant, Successful Entrepreneur & Founder of the Tri Ân Foundation
• P.Q. Phan
  Composer, Educator & Professor of Music at Indiana University
• David M. Biagi
  Architect & former Director of the University of Kentucky School of Architecture

Of the 128 entries this event attracted from around the world, the choice of the three finalists and ten honorable mentions certainly illustrated the international character of this competition:

Finalists – ($4,000 each)

• Grega Vezjak, Architect (Winner)
  Bilje, Miren-Kostanjevica, Slovenija
David Chisholm
CMC Architects, Prague, Czech Republic

Jordan Hines, Informal Office, llc, Lexington, KY USA

Honorable Mentions

• Young Song, Buffalo, New York
• Yongwon Kwon, New York, NY
• Yi-Chen Lee, Taipei, Taiwan
• Rob Kiester, Denver, Colorado
• Tommy Haddock, San Francisco, California
• Palita Simapaisal, Bangkok, Thailand
• Tom Lucey, Perth, Australia
• Justin Arleo, Chandler, Arizona
• Anh Nguyen, Riverside, California
• Tianyu Wu, Athens, Georgia

The Final Selection Process

The three premiated finalists were submitted to a review by the Tri Ân foundation, assisted by the competition adviser, James Walters. In the final evaluation process, it was determined that the very expressive entry by David Chisholm of CMC Architects had to be eliminated from consideration because it well exceeded the announced budget of $850,000 by almost $350,000. As a result, the entry by Grega Vezjak of Slovenia was a unanimous choice for the realization of the project. It should be noted that the jury’s choice of Vezjak matched that of the jury from the high-profile 2015 Christchurch Earthquake Memorial Competition in New Zealand, also won by the Slovenian architect over 340 entries from around the world. That memorial is slated for its dedication in February.



Winning Entry
Grega Vezjak, Architect
Bilje, Miren-Kostanjevica, Slovenija

Images ©Grega Vezak Architect



David Chisholm, CMC Architects
Team Members: Vít Máslo + Adria Ferrer
Prague, Czech Republic

Images ©CMC Architects



Jordan Hines, Informal Office, llc
Team member: Erin Ruhl
Lexington, KY USA

Image ©Jordan Hines




Honorable Mentions


Jin Young Song
Buffalo, NY USA

Image ©Jin Young Song



Yongwon Kwon
New York, NY

Image ©Jin Yongwon Kwon



Yi-Chen Lee
Taipei, Taiwan

Image ©Yi-Chen Lee



Rob Kiester
Denver, CO USA

Image ©Rob Kiester



Tommy Haddock
San Francisco, CA USA

Image ©Tommy Haddock



Palita Simapaisal
Bangkok, Thailand

Image ©Palita Simapaisal




Tom Lucey
Perth, Australia

Image ©Tom Lucey



Justin Arleo
Chandler, AZ USA

Image ©Justin Arleo



Anh Nguyen
Riverside, CA USA

Image ©Anh Nguyen



Tianyu Wu
Athens, GA USA

Image ©Tianyu Wu