Civic Art, a necessary element of urbanism, stresses the importance of the public realm and as an extension, the role of the democratic city. A healthy combination of both acknowledges the private spaces which make up private property ownership with our responsibility to the civic institutions that establish our republican form of government.
The proposed Eisenhower Memorial has placed the role of monuments and how we remember our heroes at the front of architectural discourse, discussing issues of meaning, location within the city and identity. Lets take a look at how the architecture of memory can be more about placing making and defining our neighborhoods rather than the ego of the architect.
Doughboy Square, located in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville, serves its dual roles of remembrance and civic art purpose well: designed by New Yorker Allen George Newman in 1918, the sculpture has since become an iconic symbol of the neighborhood.
Lessons we can learn from the Doughboy:
Civic Art and neighborhood design should reinforce each other. Take your pick of urban design lingo in describing Doughboy Square: node, gateway, threshold. The prominent placement of the memorial in an otherwise existing fork in the road establishes a threshold in the urban fabric announcing entry into the neighborhood. It’s also a sense of place, large enough to function as public space. Finally, the vertical height serves as a visual termination. Pretty impressive.
When our civic art suffers, so do our neighborhoods. The 1980’s were hard both on the Doughboy and the neighborhood, but today both serve as identity markers - the Doughboy for Lawrenceville and Lawrenceville for Pittsburgh.
When the architecture of the private realm is controlled to function as fabric buildings they may serve as backdrops to civic art, which is often much smaller in scale. This permits the public realm to stand out within the urban hierarchy