Chuck Brown Memorial

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2014, Marshall Moya Design. 20th and Franklin sts. NE.

Opened in 2014, the Chuck Brown Memorial was commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities in partnership with the Executive Office of the Mayor to celebrate the go-go legend, referred to as the "Godfather of Go-Go." The project is an important effort to highlight Washington's Black history, which has been compromised in recent years with the advent of fast-paced gentrification and the pushing out of Black residents by white newcomers. 

The Commission selected African American designer Michael Marshall of Marshall Moya Design to devise the plan for the memorial to Chuck Brown (1936–2012), an American guitarist, bandleader, and singer who contributed to the creation of go-go music, a subgenre of funk that originated in Washington in the mid-1960s and combined blues with early hip-hop and percussion. The style became the official music of the city in 2020. It has also been at the center of controversy wherein white gentrifiers expressed complaints about noise, prompting Black residents to throw block parties and go-go performances in protest to the radical cultural and economic transformations of historically Black neighborhoods. Marshall was an ideal candidate for the commission since he grew up just a few blocks from the site and completed his bachelor's degree at the Catholic University of America School of Architecture in Washington, D.C. (he later completed his master's degree at Yale).

Located in the largely residential Woodridge neighborhood, as part of Langdon Park, the Chuck Brown Memorial is an immersive and interactive experience. Upon arriving to the site, visitors first encounter a three-dimensional sculpture of Brown. They are then led to a large-scale circular photographic tile display that details the timeline of Brown's life and career. On the other side of the circular walk is a semicircular green, meant to function as an open-air performance venue, originally intended to accommodate 150-200 people. Two clusters of interactive and colorful musical playgrounds for children complete the memorial. The landscape design integrates cherry and magnolia trees. 

References

Cohen, Matt. "Chuck Brown Memorial Park to Open August 22." DCist, August 11, 2014. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://dcist.com/.

Hopkinson, Natalie. Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

Madsen, Deane. "Marshall Moya Design Opens DC Chuck Brown Memorial." Architect Magazine, August 22, 2014. 

Sherman, Shantella Y. "Chuck Brown Memorial Park Unveiled." Afro-American Red Star, August 30, 2014. 

"UDC: We ARE Black History: Michael Marshall." University of the District of Columbia. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.udc.edu/.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Vyta Pivo
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Data

Timeline

  • 2014

    Built

What's Nearby

Citation

Vyta Pivo, "Chuck Brown Memorial ", [Washington, District of Columbia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/DC-02-999-0026.

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