The National Mall in Washington, D.C., is “a great public space, as essential a part of the American landscape as the Grand Canyon,” according to architecture critic Paul Goldberger, but few realize how recent, fragile, and contested this achievement is. In Monument Wars, Kirk Savage tells the Mall's engrossing story—its historic plan, the structures that populate its corridors, and the sea change it reveals regarding national representation. Central to this narrative is a dramatic shift from the nineteenth-century concept of a decentralized landscape, or “ground”-heroic statues spread out in traffic circles and picturesque parks-to the twentieth-century ideal of “space,” in which authority is concentrated in an intensified center, and the monument is transformed from an object of reverence to a space of experience. Savage's lively and intelligent analysis traces the refocusing of the monuments themselves, from that of a single man, often on horseback, to commemorations of common soldiers or citizens; and from monuments that celebrate victory and heroism to memorials honoring victims. An indispensable guide to the National Mall, Monument Wars provides a fresh and fascinating perspective on over two hundred years of American history.
1. A Monument to a Deceased Project
2. Covering Ground
3. The Mechanic Monster
4. Inventing Public Space
5. The Monument Transformed
6. The Conscience of the Nation
7. An End to War, an End to Monuments?
List of Illustrations
Kirk Savage is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America.
“An exceptional book, Monument Wars is impressive in just about every way. It is an indispensable guide to the National Mall and establishes Savage as one of the foremost historians of American art now working.”—Alexander Nemerov, Yale University
“Monument Wars is the best single work I've read on the idea of the 'monument' in American culture, the best single analysis and history of Washington's shrines. In his rich and riveting analyses of the Washington Mall, Kirk Savage brilliantly re-animates its monuments with the stories of their often fraught and contentious origins. This is also a philosophical treatise on the paradox of lively American democratic ideals as they find fixed form in stone and mortar. Monument Wars is an outstanding achievement.”—James E. Young, author of The Texture of Memory and At Memory's Edge
“No one does art history and the history of memory as sublimely as Kirk Savage. In this book of extraordinary research and widely accessible prose, Savage brilliantly shows how America's most sacred and visible public space has evolved. He also demonstrates how the Washington Mall has become, for Americans, the preeminent space where the very idea of a monument has constantly changed. And above all, Savage writes with deep sensitivity about the sometimes tortured, always fascinating politics of national memory. The Mall appears monumentally fixed. But after reading Savage, no one will be able to gaze upon its stunning vistas without realizing that it is a turbulent, unsteady story of how a republic memorializes itself.”—David W. Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
“Kirk Savage maps Washington's ubiquitous monuments within the symbolic cityscape fashioned by the city's planners and rulers, creating a luminous, insightful record of our national political enthusiasms and obsessions. At once an art history of monuments and a landscape history of political theater, Monument Wars is a worthy successor to Savage's classic Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves.”—Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles
J.B. Jackson Prize, Foundation for Landscape Studies
J.B. Jackson Prize, 2012, Foundation for Landscape Studies
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice, a publication of the American Library Association
Charles C. Eldredge Prize, Smithsonian American Art Museum