In these uncertain times, it’s worth remembering the uncertain times of past generations.
For us at Wrightstyle, it’s also good to remember past projects that mark important anniversaries.
Ten years ago, we were just establishing ourselves internationally. We had innovative systems and we had a first-rate design capability.
Back then, for example, we were among the first to live test one of our systems against both lorry and car-bomb attack.
But, while our profile was rising domestically, we were still struggling in export markets.
Now, of course, we are recognised internationally. In the past two weeks, we have supplied to Jordan.
In the past year, we have also supplied to the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
But to reach those markets we needed to demonstrate that we could work across jurisdictions, providing systems to meet or exceed local regulatory requirements.
Ten years ago, one such defining project was for a fighting unit with a legendary and illustrious past, with just over 240,000 serving personnel, including reservists.
The US Marine Corps, with its motto Semper Fidelis: always faithful.
It is a family like no other because, even when you leave the Corps, you faithfully remain a Marine for the rest of your life. Among its veterans are US Congressmen and Senators, Olympic athletes, and captains of industry.
It also counts no fewer than 25 astronauts – including John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.
Famous Marine actors include Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel and Steve McQueen. The film director Sam Peckinpah was a Marine – as were Lee Trevino, the golfer, Leon Spinks, the boxer. So too, the authors Leon Uris and Robert Ludlum.
The Corps has a central place in the affection and gratitude of all of Americans. Its most iconic image is the Joe Rosenthal photograph of the Stars and Stripes being raised on Iwo Jima in World War II.
In that epic battle, there were 26,038 US casualties, more than the total number of Allied casualties on D-Day. The last Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima only surrendered in 1951, six years after the end of the war.
What makes the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph especially poignant is that, of the six men depicted – five Marines and one Navy sailor – three did not make it off the island alive. It is the most reproduced photograph of all time.
Given the history of the Corps, the decision to build a memorial chapel to remember the sacrifice of fallen Marines was going to be a supreme challenge for its designers. However, when the new $5 million chapel opened in 2009, it did so to universal acclaim.
The Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel, in Quantico, Virginia, sits in extensive grounds that also contain the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The National Museum welcomes thousands of visitors every year, and houses over 1,000 artefacts from tanks and aircraft to more than 1,800 photographs, letters and illustrations. Overlooking the museum is the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, with the chapel at its heart.
The small 77-seat chapel, framed in Douglas fir, adds a humanistic touch to the museum, providing a non-denominational and contemplative place for Marines and non-Marines alike.
The building is simplistic, with narrow timber columns and beautiful stonework. Adding to an interior filled with light, the spaces between those columns are filled with large-span translucent glass.
They offer views of the trees and countryside that surround the chapel. The concept behind the design was that it should be a “transparent chapel in the woods.”
Blending the interior and exterior is deliberate, and intended to echo the design of improvised field chapels still found in today’s combat zones. It is a reminder of courage and sacrifice dating back over 200 years.
In that sense, the building itself is about the fragility of life. Marines may be warriors, but we are also all human.
However, the illusion of fragility is itself an illusion. Behind the wooden frames that appear to hold the glass in place is a hidden framework of high-tensile steel. It’s that steel framework, coupled with optically-brilliant, laminated glass that allows for the large spans of glazing to be achieved.
It’s a contact that Wrightstyle was honoured to supply to, then and now.
Then, it was a hugely prestigious contact that helped us establish an international reputation.
Now, it’s a project that helps us remember that, even in difficult times, there is always hope for a better world.
Photos: Courtesy of Ben Rasmussen Photography