Beacon of Endurance - CODAworx

Beacon of Endurance

Client: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Location: Springfield, IL, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $220,000

Project Team


BJ Krivanek

Krivanek+Breaux/ Art+Design


Joel Breaux

Krivanek+Breaux/ Art+Design

Public Art Agent

Illinois Capital Development Board


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum


BROdesigned Construction


Christian McWhirter


Symbolizing Abraham Lincoln’s continuing significance to American life and culture, this landmark artform has a real presence, yet exhibits humility in its setting. The obelisk-like form is slightly tilted and torqued, to suggest human and constitutional distortions, traumas, and foibles. Its materiality bridges from the industrial strength and perseverance of rusted steel rooted in the land, to the impervious, laser-cut stainless steel of its upper form – reaching skyward. Its form and materiality evoke the industrial age, artillery, monuments, entombment, rocketry, and progression over time.
Upon an aluminum substructure, the lower section is comprised of rusted steel panels inscribed with Lincoln’s written and spoken words encircling the base, arranged by date. The upper section is comprised of stainless-steel panels with laser-cut inscriptions on the front, words that suggest Lincoln’s character and principles. At nighttime, pinpoint spotlights mounted within on springy platforms, project words through steel gobos – a Victorian Age technology. The artform transforms through illumination and the quivering projection of societal ideals and imperatives onto the Museum walls, to become a beacon of American endurance through decades. 16’-3”W x 24’-10”H x 15’D


Located along the primary vehicular approach to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum (ALPLM) in Springfield, the beacon stands apart from the blank wall of the Museum – a harbinger of the wrenching historic and cultural narratives that will be experienced in the library and museum. It’s high visibility to drivers in the four lanes of approaching traffic was a primary objective of the museum and library curators and administrators. Visitors would become aware of their imminent arrival to the ALPLM campus.
The materiality and construction of the beacon is intended to evoke a range of periods – the industrial age of Lincoln’s lifetime in the past (lower section) and the sleek surfaces of viewers’ present and future (upper section) – connecting both realms through the content and meanings of the inscribed texts. The upper section is inscribed with words that suggest Lincoln’s character and principles – Honorable, Emancipation, Advancement, Inclusion, Progress, Equality, etc. – societal goals that were achieved or remain unresolved. At nighttime, words are projected onto the museum walls – contested societal ideals and imperatives – Enact, Respect, Pride, Truth, Unity, Reason, Coexist, Protest, Hope, etc.


This sitework – commissioned by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum via the State of Illinois Art-in-Architecture Program – was developed in competition, a public process that had few parameters except for the given site. Except for general guidelines and the primary objective of high visibility, the concept and form were developed independent of ALPLM. It did not significantly change during final design development except for structural adaptations, etc.
What did remain very open was the authorship and content of the inscriptions. We worked with a museum curator to select and edit passages from Lincoln’s written and spoken words (lower section), relying upon his deep knowledge of the subject. The inscriptions that would appear on the front and projected from the back of the beacon (upper section) were developed through community outreach with a group of Black residents of Springfield – a group attuned to the human and civil rights issues that define Lincoln’s legacy. Conducted during COVID, the Zoom webinar introduced the conceptual framework of the beacon and categories of words that would be deployed. Discussions were followed up with participants’ individual responses to categorial prompts – historic societal goals and contemporary societal impulses.

Additional Information

A major challenge in the development of the beacon was the facilitation of a low tech, Victorian Age technology for the projection of words onto the museum at night. After an exacting planning process to determine projection angles and beam spread, we selected pinpoint LED projectors and managed to conceal extensive wiring inside the structure. The trial and error part came with devising projector platforms that would be shifted by air currents, enabling a subtle quivering movement to create a sense of vulnerability. Because the laser-cut inscriptions would be backed-up with clear polycarbonate – mostly enclosing the inner beacon – we couldn’t only rely upon natural air currents, so we installed a fan at the top to keep things shifting. One of the pleasures at night is to see the inner mechanisms through the laser-cut inscriptions, heightening the industrial feeling of the beacon.