Reclaiming Sacred Space

At a time when there is much discussion about landscape as art, the Endless Column Complex by Romanian sculptor Constantine Brancusi (1876–1957) holds particular significance for the field of landscape architecture. Completed in 1938, the tripartite ensemble—composed of the Endless Column, a 30-meter high column of zinc and brass-clad, cast-iron modules, and two stone monuments, the Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence—was conceived as a tribute to young Romanian soldiers who died defending the town of Târgu-Jiu against German forces during World War I.

Its location marks the place along the River Jiu where the young men made their sacrifice and draws out from there as a processional way that continues through the town for nearly two kilometers. It is a sublime creation that suggests the journey from this life to the next, with a sequence of evocative, abstracted monuments placed within the fabric of everyday civic life. Commemorating a profoundly heroic and tragic moment in the history of Târgu-Jiu and Romania as a nation, this seminal work of modern art is regarded as one of the first and most successful public monuments of the twentieth century. Upon its completion, the ensemble defined a sacred space that stretched from the river floodplain to a haymarket on the edge of town, the monuments punctuating a serene landscape of gently rolling hills, cultivated fields, and farmhouses built of wood and stone, embraced by the snow-capped Carpathians visible in the distance. Since then, however, the ensemble has lost a substantial amount of its presence, yielding to visual clutter and landscape intrusions as the town continues to expand. The processional way connecting the monuments, known as the Avenue of Heroes, has become a major thoroughfare, now bisected by other streets and lined with Soviet-era buildings, while the sculptures themselves have been isolated from each other. The Table of Silence and the Gate of the Kiss are located in the Park of the Gate, which bustles with activity throughout the year. The Park of the Column, which is much less used, abuts a school, a relatively tall and grim clothing factory, houses, and, further along the road to Bucharest, army barracks.

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