Civic Architecture and Public Works (A-1)


Civic Architecture and Public Works (A-1)


"What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of living might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility; what an extension of agriculture even to the tops of our mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads, and other public works, edifices, and improvements might not have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good, which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief." - Benjamin Franklin

“Public works” entails a broad array of improvement projects, inlcuding development and maintenance of public utilities, bridges and roadways, parks, airports, municipal buildings, communication networks, and many other physical and virtual assets.

These are essential to the conduct of society, as many of the forces that impact our lives on a day-to-day basis are impacted by public works. However, these services and infrastructure are so often used that they blend into the background fabric of life, and individuals may not recognize the centrality of the public sector in the provision of these necessities.

Public works professionals include laborers, technicians, craftsmen, engineers, and administrators. During the Great Depression, public works provided jobs and a morale boost for Americans, while helping build many key structures and facilities still vital to the country’s modern infrastructure.

Civic architecture defines public institutions and venues as focal points in the landscape of cities, towns and villages. In your mind, picture a city hall, a bandshell, a hospital, a library, a memorial or monument. Envision your favorite parks, schools and universities. These institutions and sites are sources of great community pride, in part due to their architectural magnificence.

In many cases, civic architecture is designed to ensure that public venues can accommodate large numbers of the public, to facilitate meaningful interaction between the public and with government. Public venues also serve an important local economic purpose by supporting cultural entertainment, festivals, farmer’s markets, and small business and entrepreneurial activities.

The items in the Civic Architecture and Public Works gallery illuminate the presence of public service in our daily activities as well as less signficant moments, both individual and societal. As you review these items, we invite you to consider how the places you frequent and the infrastructure you use is possible because of the public sector.

Collection Items

Completing a Great Work - The Brooklyn Bridge
"There can be little doubt that in many ways the story of bridge building is the story of civilization. By it we can readily measure an important part of a people’s progress." [bold] - President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Brooklyn Bridge was…

Hoover Dam
"Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice."  - Ove Arup, structural…

U.S. Patent Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO or USPTO) is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual…

U.S. Post Office & Courthouse
The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, is located on the southwest corner of Meeting and Broad Streets in an area known as the "Four Corners of Law." The building is a testament to the importance of the federal presence in…

Stone of Hope - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument
"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." - Martin Luther King, Jr., 1959 This sculpture of Dr.…

The White House, 1846
This image represents the earliest known photograph of the White House. It was taken by entrepreneurial photographer and gallerist John Plumbe in 1846, during the administration of James K. PolkFor further exploration, please see…

Miami - U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
Located at 300 NE 1st Avenue in downtown Miami, FL. this U.S. Post Office and Courthouse three-story building was given a Mediterranean revival by architects Paist and Steward, architects. Featuring a two-story east facade with Corinthian columns, it…

Miami Freedom Tower
The Freedom Towers were designed by Schultze and Weaver. It hosted The Miami News newspaper headquarters and printing facility from 1925 to 1957. The building was used from the early 60s to 1972 as a facility to provide services to recently arrived…

View of the Old Capitol - Tallahassee, Florida
The Florida State Capitol is located in Tallahassee, Florida. The first capitol was originally built in 1826, but it was never completed. This building was built in 1845 and was at risk of being demolished in the late 1970s after the new Capitol…

Texas Capitol from the South Ground
The Texas Capitol is recognized as one of the most distinguished state capitols in the country. It's an excellent example of a late 19th century public architecture. The capitol was completed in 1888. In 1986, it was designated a National Historic…
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