Court Square Compass

Originally completed for ARCH 3050: 6D Design Thinking with Professor Elgin Cleckley at UVA SARC Fall 2020

Court Square has, historically, been a space of oppression for African Americans and minorities. The Court Square Compass is a monument to orient people to the axes of white supremacy, creating a roadmap to understand the complex racial histories of Charlottesville. While white citizens have been benefitting from Court Square for hundreds of years, this monument activates the site as a teaching tool to make the site a resource to all people.

The form of the monument begins by taking the “At Ready” pedestal and breaking it open. As visitors go beneath the bridge-like arch of the monument, there are a series of viewsheds cracks that shed light on moments of historical oppression in the city. Viewers can look through the cracks of the monument to see Monticello, the Charlottesville Memorial for Peace and Justice, the site of the slave auction block and storefront, the directional axis of the Washington Monument at the Nation’s Capital, the University of Virginia Rotunda, the direction of the site of Vinegar Hill, the Robert E Lee statue in Heather Heyer Park, and the “Stonewall” Statue at the site of the McKee Block. Each of these cracks shows a point of racial injustice and oppression. The largest of the openings is directed toward the Downtown Mall and the Courthouse, spaces that are on-going in their oppression from a legal and economic standpoint. Beside all of these viewsheds will be writings, pictures, and other artifacts to teach and inform the public.

Armed with this knowledge of the city, viewers can climb the steps of the monument to be elevated at the height of the “At Ready” Soldier. People now get to inhabit the privileged spot at the top of the pedestal. At the top, viewers can begin to see these spaces of historical and on-going oppression from an elevated perspective. Citizens, armed with knowledge of the city, atop the pedestal, become the new monument.

The monument will be wrapped in art made by local artists. Every so often, the monument can change tone slightly by featuring different artists to paint or project murals and different art pieces onto the monument. The city can then engage this monument more. This local art will then attract more people, citizens, tourists, vistitors, students, etc to come out and be attracted to learn about the histories of Charlottesville.

Court Square Compass will orient visitors to the oppressions and injustices of the city to create a more equitable resource for all people.