Conceived, built, and briefly used over a thirty-year period, Mitchell/Giurgola’s Liberty Bell Pavilion housed and exhibited the single most venerated symbol of American democracy. Although the display of the Liberty Bell as a public talisman of freedom and independence dates back to 1852 when it was moved out of its original tower and placed on display within the Declaration Chamber in Independence Hall, the building of a special structure to house, protect, and exhibit the bell was first realized with Giurgola’s modernist design. Going beyond its immediate programmatic requirements, Mitchell/Giurgola Architects created a space that was both contemplative and functional for the more than thirty million people who visited the bell during the Bicentennial and afterward.
Recent changes in exhibition, security, and architectural taste have redefined Independence Mall and with them the display of the Liberty Bell. Throughout the long history of venerating and preserving these forty-five acres of buildings and sites associated with the founding of the nation, the various approaches over time in exhibiting the Liberty Bell remind us of the primacy of design in shaping interpretation and experience.
The full article is available at Project Muse.
Image: “The Old Liberty Bell,” stereocard, Keystone View Co. Note the earlier carriage to support the bell has been retained but the glass and mahogany case removed and the bell relocated to the stair hall of Independence Hall where it remained until 1975. (Independence National Historical Park)