City Hall

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In 1944, in anticipation of the end of World War II, Architectural Forum magazine asked a number of architects to contribute ideas about new structures for “194X,” that future date when Americans could turn their attention to peaceful, productive activities.

Charles Eames was assigned “City Hall.”

The drawings above and the text below are both by Charles. They were first published in Architectural Forum, and later reprinted in Arts and Architecture magazine:

In a typical American community with 70,000 people, about 27,000 are registered voters. In 1943 only 12,000 voted in a municipal election. Why?

Among the several important reasons: A lack of the facilities by which the people can educate themselves to understand the techniques of government.

A city government should and must be housed as the center of a mutually cooperative enterprise in which: the government talks to the people and the people talk to the government. The administration of government is the business of the people.

The obligations of the people in a democracy consist not only of an exercise of franchise, but participation in, and active direction of the rules or laws by which government exists.

The city hall must properly be considered the heart of any community, the house of government. A building in which provision is made not only for the administration of rules and regulations, but a building which must contain facilities for the expression of the idea of government, which is never static and which can never be complete without the direct participation of the people who create it.

It should be impossible to think in terms of the juvenile court without thinking in terms of the children’s clinic, without thinking in terms of a Board of Education. Such a Board of Education can best function through activities within the house of government itself by presenting in active cooperation with all departments: exhibitions, motion pictures, study and lecture groups, open forums.

To the end that, when the government talks to the people and the people talk to the government, it is one and the same voice.