Virtual Museum of Public Service

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” is a broad category of improvement projects that includes 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 and many of the forces that impact our lives on a day-to-day basis fall within the public works arena, although individuals may rarely recognize this dependence. Public works professionals include laborers, technicians, craftsmen, engineers and administrators. Public works provided a morale boost for Americans in the great depression periods and helped 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 many cities, towns and villages. Such institutions and venues include city halls, cultural facilities, hospitals, libraries, memorials and monuments, parks, schools and universities, all of which can be a source of great community pride because of their architectural magnificence. In many cases civic architecture is designed to ensure that public venues can accommodate large numbers of the public, to provide for their comfort and to facilitate meaningful interaction between them. Public venues also serve an important purpose by supporting local economies as locations for cultural entertainment, festivals, farmer’s markets as well as small business and entrepreneurial activities. Civic architects must be mindful of public safety and security.