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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.

3 Comments

  1. What’s wrong with modern ruins?

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

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