by others’ works

I visited the FDR memorial not too long ago and came away thinking it would have been much cooler had it been designed in the 1930s – except for the problem of monumentalizing a sitting president; I don’t think that would have gone over well.

I understand that it’s difficult to bring together all of the distinguishing features of FDR’s presidency into one theme – had he been in office just for the Depression or just for the war, maybe it would be different – but I found the memorial too spread out. Each of his four terms is given a separate section, each partially enclosed by granite walls. There are plantings on the walls; maybe they look good in the spring or summer, but to me the combination of vegetation and rock creates the impression of a modern ruin. Maybe I’m just conditioned to think of monuments as clean white marble, smooth, cold, classical, stately.

It’s still a nice setting for a walk, and I do appreciate being able to appreciate a monument on a (nearly) human scale, rather than being expected to stand in awe and reverence before some towering figure. (Not that the Lincoln Memorial isn’t awesome anyway.)  But it’s a bit unsettling, especially in these economic times, to watch visitor after visitor line up in the bread line to have their picture taken, smiling.

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3 Responses to by others’ works

  1. teofilo says:

    What’s wrong with modern ruins?

  2. andrew says:

    Nothing, unless that’s not what they’re supposed to be.

  3. andrew says:

    (That is, unless they’re not supposed to look like ruins when they’re still relatively new.)

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