Tucson Oddity: Monoliths at Congress, I-10 recall city's ancient origins

2011-01-24T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T11:46:09Z Tucson Oddity: Monoliths at Congress, I-10 recall city's ancient originsAndrea Rivera Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 24, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Four rammed-earth monoliths occupy prominent real estate in downtown Tucson.

The monoliths stand at the northwest corner of West Congress Street and Interstate 10, in Sentinel Plaza.

The hard-to-miss sculptures - the tallest monolith is 28 feet tall - went up in late 2001, but the surrounding plaza, which is named after Sentinel Peak or "A" Mountain, wasn't completed until 2003, according to Star archives.

The monoliths face "A" Mountain and are intended to offer a connection to the city's ancient inhabitants, who lived along the Santa Cruz River and built their dwellings out of the earth.

The site at one time was also home to the Desert Inn, but the hotel was demolished to make way for wider I-10 frontage roads, Star archives show.

A smaller monolith decorated in tile also is featured in the plaza.

Then there is the "spirit" line that zigzags across the plaza's floor.

The "spirit" line energizes and unites the site, according to a description of the project on the Tucson Pima Arts Council's website.

"The 'spirit' line conceptually links the site to Sentinel Peak while referencing the Piman-speaking settlement located at the foot of the black mountain. The name 'Tucson' is believed to derive from 'Schookson,' meaning 'at the foot of Black Mountain,' " the description reads.

A group of artists that included Joy Fox, Andrew Rush, Chuck Sternberg, Judith Stewart and architect Bob Vint designed the public art project.

The monoliths and the surrounding plaza were built with two $250,000 federal grants awarded to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Contact reporter Andrea Rivera at arivera@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

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