‘Memorials for the future’

This time last year I wrote about the value of personifying monumental leaders, specifically on the Penn State campus. I later wrote about Monument Lab, a public art project “seeking ideas for a new Philadelphia monument.”

Recently, Memorials for the Future came across my radar, a similar concept with a different approach to building monuments:

The National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service, working in tandem with the Van Alen Institute in New York, announced “Memorials for the Future,” an open design competition for new memorials. The contest is asking not only for memorial designs but memorial concepts—opening up the questions of whom, what, and why to the public.

In effect, the people responsible for guiding memorials to completion are putting the cart before the horse. They’re asking for designs that will drive the debate about what memorials should do. …

The contest is purely for honors, not to produce a built memorial. But any memorial starts with a grassroots campaign. A gripping memorial design associated with Black Lives Matter, for example, or Vision Zero—or abortion or suicide or gun violence or drug abuse or really any controversial subject in life—could generate its own momentum.

This seems like a better way to approach building monuments. Let the people themselves express ways to enshrine their spirit across the landscape.

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