Prototype Monument for Center Square


Terry Adkins • 2015 • Reclaimed and new wood, hardware, paint • City Hall


Prototype Monument for Center Square (2015) was a temporary public art installation by the late artist Terry Adkins. He imagined a project that would connect William Penn’s original plan for the city to its current day conditions. In Adkins’ proposal, he wrote of “the history of the central courtyard of City Hall as a power spot; the center of a former public square that was a vehicle for commerce, announcement, education, and protest.”

Adkins’ sculpture resembled an outdoor classroom and draws inspiration from a 19th century schoolhouse envisioned by Joseph Lancaster, an early innovator of education in this region. Lancaster valued public education as a universal human right. He opened the nation’s first “model schools” for training teachers in Philadelphia and piloted systems designed to educate the masses. Adkins repurposed Lancaster’s layout “to draw ongoing attention to the plight of education.” The artwork reflected upon the history of educational innovation and loss in the city of Philadelphia.

Days after proposing this monument in 2014, Adkins passed away at the age of 60. A team of his students, colleagues, and artists from RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency) worked together to realize Prototype Monument for Center Square. Elements of the sculpture were constructed with salvaged lumber from Philadelphia area demolition sites.

Partners: Major support for Monument Lab was provided by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Monument Lab was institutionally sponsored by the Penn Institute for Urban Research. “We’re getting there” was presented as part of the Monument Lab: Philadelphia (2015) exhibition.  

Image: Monument Lab/Lisa Boughter