I recently read an article, with photos, describing a pair of new monuments in central public spaces, one in a c ity in Poland and one in a city in Lithuania. Each is a vertical circle about 10 feet high with a possibly marble ring enclosing a round video screen. The screen shows in real time exactly what people are doing in front of the other identical circle in the other city — people who are, typically, waving back at you.
It occurred to me that I live in a city in desperate need of monuments that are unlikely to become increasingly shameful with the passage of years.
Here, I thought, is a type of monument that doesn’t glorify some past individual (hate to break the news, but all individuals are flawed). It doesn’t even glorify some other city (all cities have done bad stuff). Rather, it serves to communicate, and to bring closer and make real people in another place — living, active, growing, changing people, not stone heroes on horseback.
Charlottesville has five sister cities, and could add more. Imagine a public space in Charlottesville with five of these portals and room for more. Each could carry the name of a sister city, plus the live video from a public space in that city — plus perhaps a display of what time it is there. I think the funding for such a project could be publicly raised — including the funds needed to make a gift of a paired monument to each sister city. The expenses certainly would never approach the cost of, say, a bridge on the U.S. 250 Bypass.
I’ve sent the idea to Charlottesville Sister Cities, to the people who made the portals in Poland and Lithuania, and to Charlottesville’s City Council. What do you think?