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

Public Architecture - Political and Social Meaning
Note the Gallery Media section to the left for the following two articles. - Public Voices Volume III No. I. Public Architecture As A Political and Social Anchor in the Post Modern Age (1997). By Charles T. Goodsell. Public architecture is presented…

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
The Lincoln Memorial was one outcome of the 1901 Senate Park Commission, which sought to reimagine Washington D.C.’s National Mall as a grand display of neoclassical architecture. Through taking classical European architectural themes (white marble,…

Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a presidential memorial in Washington, D.C. dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father and the 3rd president of the United States. This neoclassical building was designed by John Russell Pope. It was…

The Three Soldiers, Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, Washington, D.C.
This heroic bronze statue entitled The Three Soldiers is one of the most visited monuments in Washington, D.C. It is situated in the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and was dedicated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

First Memorial in the United States Capital Honoring Women's Military Service
This is the first memorial to be placed in the nation's capital in honor of the military service of women. It is on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It depicts three women, one caring for a soldier.

James Hoban, Public Architect and Developer. Architect of the White House.
"Do nothing- Or, take history into our own hands and like few generations are given the chance, bend it, bend it in the service of a better day."  - Joseph R. Biden Jr., Former Vice President of the United States The rich sandstone walls of the White…

View of Arch "A" - Oberlin, Ohio
Photograph of the Oberlin College (View of the Arch) "Both the college and the town of Oberlin were founded in 1833 by a pair of Presbyterian ministers...Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been…

Florida East Coast Railway Advert
The Florida East Coast Railway (reporting mark FEC) is a Class II railroad operating in the U.S. state of Florida; in the past, it has been a Class I railroad. Built primarily in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th…

Miami Beach Venetian Causeway
The Venetian Causeway crosses Biscayne Bay between Miami on the mainland and Miami Beach on abarrier island in south Florida. The man-made Venetian Islands and non-bridge portions of the causeway were created by materials which came from the dredging…

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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