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Public Space

Much earlier in this blog, I wrote about my dismal attempts at designing the courthouse square, one of the two public spaces at the heart of Agincourt. Nothing has changed here but I’m getting some help.

Without any conscious intent on my part, the original townsite plat incorporated 19th century notions of body, mind and spirit as integral parts of the community’s core: the courthouse itself (body), the now defunct Episcopal girls’ school (mind) and the four bracketting church lots (spirit) that occupy eight blocks in the shape of a bow tie (or a dog bone, if you must). But try as I might—and I did several times—the character of The Square eluded me.

Part of the problem I suspect is my origin as a product of the 60s—protest movements, burning bras and draft cards (I did neither, by the way)—not to mention the fact that no male member of my family ahs ever served in a war! Hard to believe, isn’t it. My father was an only child and lost a leg at the age of nine. My grandfather was either too old or too young. And the distaff side of the family wasn’t in my radar. War stories simply weren’t a part of my youth. For those and other reasons, my perspective on war and its memorialization ahs been problematic.

Aerial-jackson-courthouse-looking-mostly-east-11-06-2010_9270

And yet Agincourt has its pair of public places: The Square (testosterone-soaked turf laden with civic monuments remembering community losses in the dozen wars since Agincourt’s founding in 1853) and The Commons (filled with the bandstand, puppet theater, duck pond and seersucker-clad families on sultry Saturday evenings). Is it too binary to think of them with that degree of polarity? Sue me.

Fast forward to last night’s LA322 class and four landscape students who’ve signed on to a team effort that will solve my dilemma. The task is clear, if complex, involving a buttload of background research into the American tradition of public squares. Not surprisingly, there is also a buttload of material on the interweb. Scholars have been interested in pubic squares since the 1960s and the rush to nominate county government fracilities of the 19th and early 20th centuries to the National Register. I’m anxious to help our students understand an important phenomenon in American history.

Traditional_court_squares

And, not incidentally, reaquaint myself with that theme and fill an important community need that seems beyond me.

PS: These Texas examples don’t quite match the situation in Agincourt. Wouldn’t you know I’d introduce a kink.


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