Kirk Savage rethinks the National Mall

Kirk Savage’s Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape, an excellent new history of Washington memorial culture, changed my thinking about the National Mall. I’m afraid I have all too often allowed myself to think of the Mall as sacred space, inviolate and, in a phrase made popular by its most ardent defenders, “a substantially completed work of civic art.” If you suffer from some of this kind of lazy thinking, Savage’s very fine book will help you undo sloppy habits. His history traces not just the physical transformation of the Mall over the last two hundred years, but the philosophical shift from thinking in terms of public grounds to public space that explains how it came to look the way it does today. I reviewed the book for the New Republic’s handsome online book review.


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Filed under Architecture, Culture, Preservation

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