2011-Emily Nguyen, United States Monuments

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A monument has been defined as a structure erected to commemorate an idea, person, place or event. Or, it is a site that is marked and preserved because of its importance to a group of people. In both cases, the making of a monument requires a mental leap. A community must collectively project meaning onto a structure or place in order to define it as a monument. In America, these monuments can range from sites made significant by tragedy, natural beauty, cultural movements or historical events. In some cases, the construction and artifice made in order to signify a monument is elaborate. Monuments can be indicated by signs, promenades or entire structures. However, in some cases, the demarcation of a monument is invisible and the monument is identified through a collective consciousness.

The William Cooper Mack Thesis Fellowship allowed me to further investigate many American monuments and it also led me to unexpected discoveries. Through the fellowship I was able to travel to Appalachian country, Washington, D.C., and Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the Southwest I visited the Hoover Dam, the Vegas Strip, Route 66, Grand Canyon, Navajo Nation, the Four Corners, Topaz Internment Camp, an Indian reservation, the Great Salt Lake and the Salt Lake City Mormon Tabernacle. In San Francisco I saw various sites like Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Cable Car Museum, Mission Dolores, and Tanforan.

From my travel experiences, I began to envision the monument as part of the American collective unconscious, represented in my project through an archipelago of models. These objects and dissections of icons led to the design of four spaces that investigate American memory and contradiction. The series of models and the four proposals represent the Hall of Record, and examine the idea of the index, the relationship between the souvenir and the monumental, and the hand-held and architectural scale.

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