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Matt Witt leads design team to semifinals

Rachel Creagan
Staff Writer

Matthew Witt, associate professor of public administration, is heading a design team, which entered in the National Ideas Competition for the design of the nation’s most symbolic space – the Washington Monu­ment grounds.

His team is one of 24 semi-finalists, chosen from more than 500 participants across the United States and around the world by a jury of university professors, architects, distinguished designers, historians, futurists and civic leaders in partnership with George Washington University.

“What is exciting to me is how interdisciplinary it is,” Witt said. “I am struck by how vast and full of potential the space is,” Witt said.

Despite two centuries of planning and ideas, the space has never been fully realized, Witt said. That was the impetus for the competition.

Witt has been working with his father, an architect, for the structure of the design.

He is also working with Dion Johnson, director of university art galleries, and Jon Leaver, associate professor of art history, to integrate ULV students into this initiative.

Witt introduced this proposition at the first of three presentations held for the La Verne community on Monday in the Campus Center Ballroom.

He first took the audience of 25 students from various majors on a tour of the National Mall. He gave them some history along with insight to specifics of the design as it stands today.

Opinions from the audience sparked a discussion of the lackluster feeling many get when seeing the monument up close.

“The Mall really means something to me; it’s America’s little front lawn, but I have never been drawn to go up close to the monument,” said Professor of Art Keith Lord, who attended the  Monday event.

“It displaces as much as it gathers,” Witt said. “I thought of the monument as a crystal; its origin sending out awesome shockwaves that reverberate to all compass points.”

Witt then showed preliminary drawings of their idea, with a detailed description of the thinking behind the design proposal they have created.

“We view the entire Mall grounds as a kind of call and response theater,” Witt said.

He stressed the importance of keeping sightlines open, and integrating the entire parameter so it is connected.

“The meaning is many things, beginning with a unique covenant founded on equality and civil liberties,” Witt said.

“Dr. Witt was able to capture the spirit of democracy,” doctoral student Nicole Crigler said.

Witt is asking for those who want get involved, to share their input through submissions of design, orientation in particular areas, programming or active pieces.

“The design challenge we see is how to align our county’s highest aspirations with work that is not finished,” Witt said.

Crigler made the suggestion of incorporating a living archive, since we now have the technology to do so. Submis­sions will be collected at the next presentation on April 18.

The competition does not guarantee the winner’s design will be built. It does, however, allow participants to be involved in a civic renewal proposal at the national level.

“We have a national voice that needs to be heard; and this is our opportunity,” Crigler said.

Rachel Creagan can be reached at rachel.creagan@laverne.edu.

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