AMIDST THE rubble of wrecked buildings at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW stands a tidy but eccentric little structure. It looks like the back of a one-car garage -- one wall, neatly clapboarded on both sides, with a gabled roof. It's painted Cape Cod gray with white trim. What do you suppose it might be?

Fortunately, there is a sign to tell you. It is a work of art called "House," by Robert McCurdy. The sign offers an explanation: "'House' is a tableau functioning as a cultural symbol, introduced into an alien environment." Alien? That's a bit strong. The National Press Building, after all, is next door. While it is true that the press club's food has never been outstanding, many of its members are people of cultivated tastes who do not deserve to be described as an environment alien to culture.

The sign continues: "The object" -- that is, the sculpture -- "is employed as a non-judgmental abbreviation, demonstrating the contrast between the urban and suburban experience." A lot of people complain these days that they, too, are employed as non-judgmental abbreviations, and perhaps many of those who pass "House," on their way to their urban jobs, will feel much in common with it on that point. But you hear the same kind of complaint from people who work out in the suburbs, too. They say that as far as experience goes, the difference between the city and the suburbs isn't as great as you might think.

This helpful sign concludes by observing, "The sculpture's urban placement provides a cultural antithesis to its surroundings." We take that to be a veiled comment on the neglected condition of the Willard Hotel across the street to the west. The people who built "House" thought small, and got the job finished promptly for the edification and enjoyment of the public. The people who want to rebuild the Willard think big, and the indecision over its future continues endlessly, to the benefit of none but the pigeons who overpopulate its facade.

The cleared plot on which "House" sits, with the wrecker's crane in the background, has been temporarily designated a Washington Project for the Arts Art Site. It's nice to live in a city where the life of the spirit is taken seriously.