The Written Word is Tom Van Sant’s public art treatment for three distinct concrete facades of the Inglewood Public Library. The work is cast into the concrete surfaces of the exterior stairwell column on Manchester; the lower level of an interior lobby; and an exterior wall of the Gladys Waddingham Lecture Hall.
Van Sant explores the development of written thought in numbers, letters, theories, and histories from diverse cultures in diverse times. Egyptian hieroglyphics, Polynesian counting systems, European cave painting, and Einstein’s mathematical equations are some of the many images to inspire library patrons with the wealth of words found inside the library’s walls.
Van Sant was commissioned through the National Endowment for the Arts Art-in-Architecture program to work with Civic Center architects Charles Luckman and Associates. This artwork required special molds built in reverse so the texts and drawings would be correctly read, a technique requiring a high degree of craft. The Written Word is one of the few examples of a poured-in-place concrete bas-relief in the Los Angeles basin and one of the largest to employ this technique in the world.