We often think of monuments as synonymous with statues or other architectural works. In Philadelphia, the Rocky statue, stairs at the Museum of Art, and Liberty Bell are all iconic monuments that symbolize both national and local culture and community. It can be challenging to think of monuments as living and dynamic when our most familiar examples are motionless. However, it is easier if we think first about what work monuments do. Monuments ensure that we remember certain people, places, events and ideas. They also influence the WAY that we remember them and how we feel they relate to us. For example, the size, materials, poses and shapes of moments can all have meaning.

Monuments can also do work as spaces where people remember what is past while also creating new memories together. For examples, we can look at Philly favorites like the Observation Deck at One Liberty Place or the glass shard mosaics of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. One Liberty Place celebrates local history with elements like a radio station playing Philly musical artists like Boyz II Men and John Coltrane and a 360-degree view of the city from the 57th floor. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens serves as an historic piece of art in its own right, an art museum, and a community center promoting civic engagement. Both places show the potential for monuments to provide experiences and a sense of belonging.

The following proposals imagine monuments in just this way. They would empower the community by making public space not just viewable, but usable as well. Just as importantly, I chose proposals made by people younger than 18. In the US, as in many places, national and local governments control how public space can be used. This means that at every step of the monument installment process - from vision to construction - many voices are not being heard because they have limited access to the people who control the use of public space. At MonumentLab we have a unique opportunity to amplify the voices of historically silenced groups, including people under the age of majority, who are not able to vote to allocate tax money toward public works.

“Cobbs Creek Youth Center” imagines a youth center in West Philadelphia with a dance studio, computer lab, theater, art room, and kitchen. Outside, there is a basketball court, and space for murals. The creator also envisions a space, perhaps a stage, where recent graduates can be celebrated by an audience of friends and family. Since the proposal is labeled “remodel,” it is most likely a reference to the existing Cobbs Creek Recreation Center. That makes it important that our creator proposes a “Youth Center,” and makes their voice as a 16-year-old all the more important to imagining a space that serves young people.

“Cobbs Creek Youth Center” imagines a youth center in West Philadelphia with a dance studio, computer lab, theater, art room, and kitchen. Outside, there is a basketball court, and space for murals. The creator also envisions a space, perhaps a stage, where recent graduates can be celebrated by an audience of friends and family. Since the proposal is labeled “remodel,” it is most likely a reference to the existing Cobbs Creek Recreation Center. That makes it important that our creator proposes a “Youth Center,” and makes their voice as a 16-year-old all the more important to imagining a space that serves young people.

“Nature in the Midst of Development” doesn’t propose a specific design. Instead, it asks the Monument Lab team to try to show that “the beauty of nature remains prominent, even with one of the largest amounts of development in the city.” This proposal shows how monuments can have personal and local meaning, while also serving a larger community. Placing a public park in Northern Liberties could be a nice visual alternative to newly developed buildings for local residents, while also becoming a space for community-building with people from all over the city. Additionally, the creator imagines local people building togetherness through a shared responsibility for maintaining the beauty of their park.

“Nature in the Midst of Development” doesn’t propose a specific design. Instead, it asks the Monument Lab team to try to show that “the beauty of nature remains prominent, even with one of the largest amounts of development in the city.” This proposal shows how monuments can have personal and local meaning, while also serving a larger community. Placing a public park in Northern Liberties could be a nice visual alternative to newly developed buildings for local residents, while also becoming a space for community-building with people from all over the city. Additionally, the creator imagines local people building togetherness through a shared responsibility for maintaining the beauty of their park.

When a neighborhood begins to have abandoned buildings and vacant lots, it is often targeted for development by outside companies and organizations, or by local government itself. An alternative to that is to ask local residents how old spaces can be repurposed to serve the community. “The Trade City” is a powerful vision of neighborhood blight being transformed into a resource that can serve people in the neighborhood as well as attracting people from the broader Philadelphia community. The creator is also proposing a title - “Philly the Trade City” that would give symbolic ownership of this resource to Philadelphia as a whole, enriching all Philly residents by association.

When a neighborhood begins to have abandoned buildings and vacant lots, it is often targeted for development by outside companies and organizations, or by local government itself. An alternative to that is to ask local residents how old spaces can be repurposed to serve the community. “The Trade City” is a powerful vision of neighborhood blight being transformed into a resource that can serve people in the neighborhood as well as attracting people from the broader Philadelphia community. The creator is also proposing a title - “Philly the Trade City” that would give symbolic ownership of this resource to Philadelphia as a whole, enriching all Philly residents by association.

Translation: A park that represents the latino community, and in the park, a mural that shows what many of us have lived and the journeys we have risked (my journey to achieve my dreams: my country, philadelphia, U.S. border, Mexican border)

Translation: A park that represents the latino community, and in the park, a mural that shows what many of us have lived and the journeys we have risked (my journey to achieve my dreams: my country, philadelphia, U.S. border, Mexican border)

The final creator that I want to highlight pictures their journey as a Latinx immigrant in 3D form, as a park. In the park, Philly residents can share in that experience by visiting place-markers within the monument that represent different moments in that journey. This proposal does not try to be universal by representing “everyone” but it invites us to reflect on the different roads each of us has taken to the same place, Philly. In doing so, we also help to define Philly as global, diverse, and welcoming, and most importantly, as a community.

 

These four proposals are only a small sampling of the hundreds of thought-provoking and unique monument proposals that MonumentLab has already collected. Do YOU have an idea for how Philly could use one of its public spaces? There will be more opportunities to share. Check our calendar here:

*A note on pronouns: I have used the gender-neutral pronouns “they/their” where proposal creators did not indicate their gender.