The Future of the Monument is Unclear

1 comment

The Future of the Monument is Unclear

Anthony Gonzalez


The future of the Monument is unclear. Undoubtedly a critical typology, the ubiquity of digital imaging is eroding the urgency for physical monuments to maintain the collective memory of the urban. In this way, it might be said that the immediacy of the representation of monuments experts pressure on physical monuments to seek out greater immediacy in order to sustain relevancy. This process, which has been worked into a frenzy of semantic satiation thanks to the broad reach of Instagram and Facebook, forces the physical monument to atomize, paradoxically becoming more digital to become more physical.

Studio Outline: This studio focused on the design of a Presidential Library for George Washington, an institution that revolves around collecting artifacts of George Washington in Washington D.C. at George Washington University. Through the production of work that draws inspiration from pop art and historical references whose origins are strongly affiliated with being MADE IN THE USA, this project was treated as a set of discursive documents that speak to explicit concepts about pop architecture.


Who influences you graphically?

I seek to examine the methods by which architectural representation is produced and disseminated. That being said, my generation produces and communicates design through the use of a mediating technologies. I am interested in the ways that the formal and cultural characteristics of screens influence the images which they transmit. Video-game aesthetics offer a natural language for the description of form and space on screens. In addition, video games rely on light emitted from a screen, not pigment placed on paper, to produce images. Graphically, light has completely different biases than paper does, and yet most architectural representation that we see today limits itself to the biases of paper an ink, such as the tendency to use black lines on white fields to describe form. MOS is perhaps the best example of a practice which concerns itself with the pushing the discourse in this direction. That being said, I think this project is a bit like if a young Michael Graves were to intern at Andrew Zago’s office.

What determined the choice of colour palette? What pop art paintings influenced the latter?

The color palette for the project developed as a way to describe the full-spectrum of light as the materiality for the building. At the same time, pixelated surfaces are made to blend with the ashlar pattern of the Washington Monument, equating the graphic of the pixel with that of the brick. In a world of 4k television and retina-display iPhones, digital culture seeks to eliminate pixels from our perception of the digital world. This project resists that cultural pressure by shifting the focus of the audience to methods of representation themselves, over the thing being represented. In terms of Pop-art, the project was most influenced by the paintings of James Rosenquist, who arranges mass-produced products on towering room-sized canvases, usually against red and orange fields. The effect is jarring, but powerful.

How and to what extent would the formatting of the project through social media have reinforced your thesis?

By disseminating this project through social media outlets, the thesis is reinforced by means of encouraging a level of meta-cognition in the audience. Put another way, the project is about the method by which it reaches it’s audience. Whether this is being viewed on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or another format of digital dissemination, it seeks to raise awareness in it’s audience of their changing relationship with the physical world and the monuments therein. For example, consider the images found above and below this project. Those images are representations of physical things, but their existence exerts ontological pressure on their referents. Put another way: what is the need for reality if we have unlimited access to high-definition representations of it?

Whilst all the images are contained by the frame, within the last one fragments seem to surpass this, Why and what is the effect?

This square drawing is called ‘The United Shapes’. The drawing works as a conception of a way to understand how obelisks of different dimensions might arrange themselves to form spaces and patterns. The drawing is a worms-eye view of this process. That being the case, the frame is broken as a way to enter the project.

What is the purpose of the white frame? 

After the completion of the Washington Monument in DC, a small booklet of some of the construction documents was produced a kind of pop-souvenir. The drawings in the booklet are all framed by the same framing-convention that encloses the critical drawings of this project.

What would happen if our moments were to be destroyed and all that was left would be there imprint, would that still be a monument in itself?

Likely not. I think that monuments only exist as monuments in so far as they are able to affix cultural meaning to physical space. Some monuments exist in negative, as powerful absences in fields of density, but they only exist in this way if they produce a heavy enough absence. I think that, paradoxically, in order for physical monuments to maintain relevancy in urban spaces, they must exert some kind of pressure into digital spaces, and allow for digital spaces to reflect their forms back onto the physical construction.



Anthony Gonzalez completed an undergraduate degree with high distinction in philosophy and architecture from Iowa State University, where he was invited to participate in the inaugural Elia Zenghelis masterclass. His work has been exhibited in Des Moines, Detroit, Venice and Rome. Tony has received numerous design awards, and realized architectural projects in Iowa and Minnesota. Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Michigan, and working on an independent research grant awarded through the university


One thought on “The Future of the Monument is Unclear”

  1. Hi:) I am an interior architecture student in The Netherlands and very much interstice in the topic of the monument. I would like to formulate my master thesis (starting january 2017) around this theme. I was wondering if you did further research foor this specific project? Is there an extended version of what i can see above? I hope you are willing to share some references that interested you perhaps. Looking forward to your respons by email! Kind regards

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.