Politics through Architecture – Part 1

Is it really that surprising to see ineluctable characteristics in architecture showcasing power and setting an obligatory mood. Especially considering that we are the beings, who above all, appreciate the aesthetic aspects of our very existence?

Cathedral of Light (Image from: http://www.museumsyndicate.com/images/6/56569.jpg)

Cathedral of Light (Image from: museumsyndicate.com)

A metonymic and a political tactic originating in Rome, ‘Panem et Circense’ is an intend to control, satisfy and keep the public peaceful by artificial means. Translating to ‘Bread and Circuses’ it’s a mean to distract the populace from the current political events through the use of architecture as an entertainment value which is presented as a variety of diversions, ranging from public baths, gladiator fights, theatre and sport competitions. The magnificence of Roman architecture was tall and impressive. It left no question of who was in charge.

Imperial Roman Decadence (Image from: Anvnews.net)

Imperial Roman Decadence (Image from: Anvnews.net)

Peter Wilson, in ‘The Domestication of the Human Species’(1991) puts forward the idea that the way we see the surrounding world strongly connects to architecture. Mostly by assisting a society to establish order which demonstrates its social and more importantly, cultural policies. This essential structure is employed by leaders for comprehending the disposition of their political power over the general public. The proclamation of how they desire to be viewed, as well as influence the public with a specific perspective is expressed through architecture.

According to Philip Johnson in ‘The International Style’(1995) ‘the development of modern city planning has brought an increasing intervention of the political authorities in architecture’. A governing body acts as an overseer of architecture. A certain parallel therefore exists between the built environment and what it wishes to express. There is no doubt that politics and essentially power that comes with it is not very restrictive to just a leader or a regime. It takes shape in many forms. Interestingly, architecture and urban design are greatly manipulated by power, as evident throughout history and around the globe.

Gothic style (Image from: Pintrest)

Gothic style (Image from: Pintrest)

There is a certain need to validate a political regime through architecture because it’s one of the core sources of our society and history. It sets and forms our customs. It shapes and disciplines our society into thinking of achieving the same goal and having similar aspirations. According to Philip Johnson(1995), ‘Monuments last much longer than words. Civilisations are remembered by buildings. There’s nothing more important than architecture’. Tall columns, impressive entry points, sheer magnanimity and the utter bulk of a solitary stone is notable in the Ancient Roman buildings. It’s a showcase of magnitude of a superior building technology. The order of modus operandi is a manifestation of authority, subsequently it is the very purpose for the structure’s perseverance, and it befits a look of stability. These large schemes were mostly accomplished by slaves and therefore any demonstrations of individuality and expertise were not supported. According to Ruskin(2001), this is an exact contrast to the ultimate product which is produced by a united determination of individuals to befit a shared faith and ambition. 

See Politics through Architecture – Part 2

Words Elizabeth Galiyeva

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