WASHINGTON – The United States Institute of Peace,created by Congress in 1984 to promote peaceful management of international conflicts,broke ground for its permanent headquarters and public education center Thursday.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Bush delivered encouraging words about the future of the USIP.
“The ground we break here today does not represent moving concrete and steel,” Reid said. “It is a symbol of hope for our nation to build monuments of peace,not war.”
Pelosi said the groundbreaking event is a “cause for celebration” because the institution has played a vital role in finding peaceable solutions across the globe.
The president said he admires the work the institution does each day. He said it is important to make sure the USIP has the resources it needs to build peace in a time when war and disease plague,not only our nation,but the world.
“The U.S. Institute of Peace is playing an important role,and I thank you for that,” he said. “In Afghanistan,you are helping a young democracy establish the rule of law and strengthen public education. … In Iraq you are helping the nation overcome the legacy of decades of tyranny.”
The site of the new USIP building is on Navy Hill just northwest of the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It overlooks the Potomac River.
In the early 1900s the site housed the U.S. Naval Medical School and Medical Hospital. In 2005 Congress and the Navy agreed to transfer the land for USIP's headquarters and its professional training center.
The facility will include a training center for professional conflict managers,conference space and a public education center.
The public education center will allow visitors to take part in hands-on activities and see exhibits that highlight international conflict and ways to promote peace.
“This project will not only be a great architectural statement,but also one of the country's most important buildings in terms of its mission,” J. Robinson West,USIP board chairman said in a statement. “It will enable us to better fulfill our congressional mandate to educate the public about the importance of international peace building and conflict resolution.”
The architectural firm of Moshe Safdie & Associates designed the building. Spherical structures will cover two atria in the center of the building. During the day,visitors will be able to see the Jefferson Memorial,and at night the building itself will stand out because its glass domes will be illuminated.
Congress contributed $100 million to the project,and the institution plans to raise $85 million from private sources.
The building is slated for completion in 2010,when it will serve as an attraction to more than 500,000 visitors each year.