Negotiation Meets Design: Knowlton School simulation engages communities around Confederate memorials

Communities around the United States have struggled to engage in productive conversations about Confederate memorials in public spaces. In response to recent contestations and confrontations, students in City and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture at OSU’s Knowlton School, led by Profs. Cheramie and Van Maasakkers, have developed an exhibit and negotiation simulation focused on these memorials.

Working with distinguished visiting landscape architect and UC Berkeley professor Walter Hood, students designed and installed an exhibit in Knowlton Hall’s Banvard Gallery. A central goal of this project was to challenge visitors to examine the ubiquity of Confederate symbols in the United States. Entering the gallery space, visitors were confronted with images of prominent Confederate memorials displaying their conditions both before and after recent contestations. These images were juxtaposed with case studies of Walter Hood-designed monuments honoring the Civil Rights movement and other historical struggles. As pictured above, on the surrounding gallery walls students displayed symbols representing the 1,504 known public symbols of the Confederacy in terms of the role they occupy in public space. Visitors were encouraged to go beyond passively viewing the exhibit. Accordingly, a negotiation table was placed near the center of the gallery.

A view of the exhibit at Knowlton Hall’s Banvard Gallery.

Within this space, several groups were invited to play a negotiation simulation, written by faculty and students, to prompt conversations about how to apply conflict resolution techniques to disputes about Confederate memorials and the public spaces where they are situated. Students in the Knowlton school, community members from the Hilltop neighborhood in Columbus (which contains a Confederate memorial), and urban planning professionals were all invited to visit the exhibit and play the simulation at three separate events.

Participants engage in the simulation at Knowlton Hall’s Banvard Gallery.


The simulation focuses on imaginary “Camp Seward Confederate Cemetery,” a cemetery for Confederate soldiers in Ohio which was created as the result of a Civil War Prisoner of War camp. At this cemetery, unknown individuals recently destroyed a statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier. In response to this act, the City mayor convenes a group of key stakeholders to discuss the future of the statue and an annual memorial ceremony that includes Confederate iconography.  While the basic facts of the simulation bear some resemblance to the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery in the Hilltop neighborhood in Columbus, it is a fictional scenario with invented stakeholders and dynamics.

The Divided Community Project has partnered with Profs. Cheramie and Van Maasakkers to make the simulation publicly available online using a creative commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).  Click here to review the general facts for this simulation.  For more information about the simulation please contact Prof.  Van Maasakkers.