Too many of today's iconic structures fail to engage the local community in their daily lives. Instead most are novel follies designed to only attract the tourist hordes. In place of fees and lines, the Forum is designed to be free and easily accessible to all. Rather than a narrow narrative, the forum is an open platform where all voices and opinions are welcomed and heard. Just like the forums of old, this new forum is a celebration of citizenship and democracy, more than an icon but a place where people of the new global community meet, share ideas and take away treasured memories.
A great icon is always awe inspiring, thought provoking and timeless. However, a vast majority of them lack engagement with the local community. The Eiffel tower, statue of liberty and Sydney opera house are all world class icons but very few local residents ever interact with them on a daily basis. The Eiffel tower is famously visited only once by Parisians on school trips. A new community focused icon is needed today, especially as we interact less and less with each other and more with the virtual world.
One of the most celebrated public spaces in the western world is the Roman Forum. The core concepts of citizenship, democracy and modern political discourse emerged from the ideas cultivated by this open platform. But on a more mundane level it was also where commerce took place and where people met to socialize and trade gossip. It is in this cultural amalgam where the seeds of great ideas were born. The world we live in today is complicated and replete with many voices, a public icon today cannot advocate for just one voice but needs to be an open stage for all, only in so doing can meaningful dialogues be had. An Icon with a narrow focus is both regressive and ultimately meaningless for future generations.
A beautiful icon lacking in utility might be visited once or twice without becoming daily routine. Without engagement, a bond cannot be formed with a place. The Forum project will be the first place you go in the morning to do your stair exercises, the place where you buy your lunch and sit with your friends, the place you go for Friday happy hour drinks and even the place you propose to the love of your life. It will be where you discover new art, participate in political activism of your choice and listen to impromptu concerts.
Sustainability is a given. The Forum encourages walking and the use of stairs, while the interactive steps both generate its own electricity and track your steps. A beautiful project loved by the community and kept for generations is the ultimate sustainable icon.
The Forum project will be an experiment in rebuilding public engagement, more than an icon but a place where peoples of the new global community met, shared ideas and took away treasured memories. A place where a vision of a better future can be nurtured.