The creation of public monuments and memorials presents difficult but challenging problems. The parks and squares of our cities are so full of the empty symbolism of 19th-century academic monuments that our natural reaction is to frown at the idea of erecting new ones. Yet the desire to symbolize the basic principles of a civilization is a normal impulse felt by man today as in the past, and there is no reason why the collective beliefs of our time, expressed in a contemporary idiom, could not become the basis of a renewed public art in our cities, especially in civic centers and housing developments.
Because present-day urban planning is giving a new form to our cities, a new place for public monuments must be found. A new relationship must be created between the groups of buildings proposed by the new urban design and public works of art, in harmony with the urban anatomy and free from traditional rigid perspectives and other formal concepts. This new relationship will come about when all those responsible for our environment--philosophers, sociologists, engineers, town planners, architects and artists--are able to participate in the overall project from its inception. However, because of the complexity of urban design, such collaboration is even less likely to be brought about than the much simpler collaboration between architects and artists at the beginning of architectural projects.
As to the form of public monuments, a limitless field is open to the artist and the architect, not only in the plastic design itself but in the virtually innumerable materials at their disposal. By its very nature, abstract art can have stronger symbolic significance than can be achieved by reusing traditional symbols now so standardized that they have lost all meaning. The usual monumental style of public memorials is giving way to a more human approach that emphasizes the social function of such memorials. In fact, several of those shown here serve as museums or as gathering places for the local population.