Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape

Kirk Savage (Author)


The National Mall in Washington, D.C., is "a great public space, as essential a part of the American landscape as the Grand Canyon," according to architecture critic Paul Goldberger, but few realize how recent, fragile, and contested this achievement is. In Monument Wars, Kirk Savage tells the Mall's engrossing story--its historic plan, the structures that populate its corridors, and the sea change it reveals regarding national representation. Central to this narrative is a dramatic shift from the nineteenth-century concept of a decentralized landscape, or "ground"-heroic statues spread out in traffic circles and picturesque parks-to the twentieth-century ideal of "space," in which authority is concentrated in an intensified center, and the monument is transformed from an object of reverence to a space of experience. Savage's lively and intelligent analysis traces the refocusing of the monuments themselves, from that of a single man, often on horseback, to commemorations of common soldiers or citizens; and from monuments that celebrate victory and heroism to memorials honoring victims. An indispensable guide to the National Mall, Monument Wars provides a fresh and fascinating perspective on over two hundred years of American history.

Product Details

University of California Press
Publish Date
July 11, 2011
6.9 X 1.0 X 10.0 inches | 1.55 pounds
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About the Author

Kirk Savage is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America.


"Superb study of monumental Washington"--Washington Post Book World (11/08/2009)
"A fascinating book."--H-Net Reviews (04/01/2010)
"The book will make you go back to the National Mall, but you'll never again see it in quite the same light. "-- (12/13/2009)
"An indispensable guide to the National Mall."--Public Art Review (07/01/2010)
"A fascinating chronicle of the heart of America's national imaginary, the National Mall in Washington DC . . . a must read."-- (12/01/2011)