Connect with us

Latest

Staff Picks

Lifestyle

Architecture can help heal cultural and political divides

The modern architecture movement known as Brutalism has done a great deal to unite the world. In spite of its monumentality, some of its messages to history have been subtle.

Published

on

288 Views

Contemporary events have made cultural dialogue between the Christian world, secular world and wider Islamic world, undeniably crucial. Although there ought to be many points of cultural contact between such societies, one of the most immovable and consequently noticeable art forms that ought to be considered as a primary source of contact, is architecture.

In particular, it is necessary to examine the case of Brutalism. In this context it is also necessary to understand the importance of Brutalism in the Communist world and non-communist post-colonial world.

Prior to the 20th century, architecture was typically a localised, regional or national phenomenon. Prior to the consecration of modernism, architecture denoted a combination of structural necessities preconditioned by local climates as well as the normative cultural imperatives of a particular society. This obviously evolved over time, but nevertheless, one could see a photograph of even a fairly generic piece of architecture and a moderately well-travelled individual could name the culture from whence such an edifice derived.

The dawning of modernism changed this not only in architecture, but in other art forms. Western orchestral music in particular lost its national characteristics which defined it in the 19th century. It became part of a wider international movement that replaced traditional harmonies with dissonant tones, but also one that replaced instrumental cultural poetry with either formalist experiments in sonic virtuosity or didactic works designed to propagate new internationally minded philosophies ranging from Communism to Futurism.

As architecture became internationalised (not that the ‘International Style’ was a giveaway), it held, as it still holds, the potential to offer cross-cultural symbiosis in ways that older styles of architecture determined by specific needs to reflect a particular culture, could not do.

Whilst Brutalism traces its origins to Western Europe, in many ways, it is less understood and appreciated in the west than it is outside of the west, in this case west is used to denote most of Western Europe and North America.

Much of classical European architecture was inspired by the idolatry of Roman Catholicism. This is most certainly true of the Baroque, elements of the Rococo and by the neo-classicism that was co-opted by the Catholic Church, most poignantly in the Vatican.

By contrast, Brutalism is monumental in its scope, its narrative and in its iconoclasm. Whereas neo-classical architecture is a kind of jigsaw puzzle of various didactic and illustrative pieces, Brutalist architecture explores the unitary notion of infinity by creating buildings whose heterodox angles intersect to form a singular monolithic piece of geometry; a singular statement.

On the one hand, the asymmetry of many Brutalist buildings reflects an age old concept that the hand of man is engaged in an exercise of arrogance when attempting to duplicate the symmetry that only a deity is capable of configuring. At the same time, the messages of communitarianism, of the inorganic interacting with the natural whilst clearly delineating the hand of humans vis-à-vis that of the organic, sends a message that man’s work can praise the divine without attempting to portray a godly figure nor copy the imagery implied in liturgical verses.

It is for this reason that Brutalist architecture has flourished most profoundly in revolutionary Communist countries, Islamic countries and countries looking to assert a post-colonial identity.

One of the most impressive brutalist buildings in the world is Louis Kahn’s National Assembly building in Dhaka. Although plans for the building begun when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan, after independence was declared in 1971, the project became more radical in nature. The building became symbolic of the fact that not only was Bangladesh free of colonial rule from London, but also free of its regional overlord in Islamabad. Kahn’s bold statement was at once modern, unrelenting and mighty whilst it also subtly paid homage to ancient trends in Islamic architecture. Gone were the trappings of neo-colonial classicism, this was a modern building which shunned idolatry in the name of an emergent self-governing Islamic state in Asia.

Louis Khan: National Assembly Building, Dhaka

Turning back to Pakistan, the Habib Bank Plaza building in Karachi is another example of the spiritual monumentality of Brutalism. Once the tallest building in all of Asia, the building is a clear break from the past, totally rejecting the neo-classicism of the Bank of England building or American Federal Reserve. Interestingly, it was designed by American architect Leo A. Daly. Louis Khan likewise, worked for most of his career in the United States.

Leo Daly: Habib Bank Plaza, Karachi

Whilst Brutalism in the Islamic world is consistent with iconoclastic aesthetics demanded of believers by sacred texts, in the Communist world, Brutalism has come to represent a rejection of royalism, aristocracy and the old social order.

Brutalism, in rejecting unnecessary ornate accoutrements and replacing them with a style where form, shape, texture and purpose are united, symbolises the collective values of Marxist-Leninist communism. Brutalism’s optimistic view of a future is guided by reason and a Marxist understanding of materialism, rather than a blind adherence to the superstitions and opulence of the past. Soviet government buildings like the George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania designed Ministry of Highways in Tbilisi reflect this optimistic spirit.

George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania: Ministry of Highways Building, Tbilisi

In Leningrad, now St. Petersburg (again), the Russian State Scientific Centre for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is unambiguous in its desire to portray the scientific achievements of Communism. In this sense, the cosmos plays an important social role in Brutalism whether in the context of religious interpretations of the heavens or in secular/atheistic interpretations.
Russian State Scientific Centre, St. Petersburg

But it wasn’t only functional buildings in the communist world that employed Brutalism. In The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito commissioned a series of monuments or Spomenik throughout the republics of Yugoslavia. The brutalist inspired sculptures were designed to symbolise both the triumph of Yugoslav partisans against fascist forces during the 1940s and commemorate the triumph of socialism over nationalism and the independence of Yugoslavia and her ‘third way’ interpretation of socialism.

The fact that many of the Spomenik stand in disrepair, is analogous to the destruction of Yugoslavia and the dream of socialist unity that it came to represent for the region.

Spomenik of the former Yugoslavia

One doesn’t need, however to turn to the Communist world to see Brutalist inspired architecture symbolising a break from the past. In Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings represented a modern Brazilian renaissance in a new city designed to break fully with a colonial past which has caused many an identity crisis throughout Latin America. Niemeyer’s works in Brasilia are best described as a syncretic style blending elements of Brutalism with those of Neo-Formalism. By choosing to build a new capital city, incorporating Niemeyer’s architectural designs, Brazil has successfully created a global image and indeed brand whereby, the buildings of Niemeyer have come to encapsulate the modern Brazilian identity that is unmistakable in both the region and the world.

Oscar Niemeyer's Brasilia

Brutalism and its offshoots remain an important line of communication between western modernism and the contemporary culture requirements of non-western societies. Brutalism is a style which helps communicate social solidarity, respectful iconoclastic reverence for the divine and the assertion of cultural autonomy from old masters.

If this message could be more widely understood and promulgated, perhaps fewer buildings would be destroyed by war and more could be erected in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Published

on

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

This Man’s Incredible Story Proves Why Due Process Matters In The Kavanaugh Case

Accused of rape by a fellow student, Brian Banks accepted a plea deal and went to prison on his 18th birthday. Years later he was exonerated.

The Duran

Published

on

Authored by James Miller of The Political Insider:


Somewhere between the creation of the Magna Carta and now, leftists have forgotten why due process matters; and in some cases, such as that of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, they choose to outright ignore the judicial and civil rights put in place by the U.S. Constitution.

In this age of social media justice mobs, the accused are often convicted in the court of (liberal) public opinion long before any substantial evidence emerges to warrant an investigation or trial. This is certainly true for Kavanaugh. His accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, cannot recall the date of the alleged assault and has no supporting witnesses, yet law professors are ready to ruin his entire life and career. Not because they genuinely believe he’s guilty, but because he’s a pro-life Trump nominee for the Supreme Court.

It goes without saying: to “sink Kavanaugh even if” Ford’s allegation is untrue is unethical, unconstitutional, and undemocratic. He has a right to due process, and before liberals sharpen their pitchforks any further they would do well to remember what happened to Brian Banks.

In the summer of 2002, Banks was a highly recruited 16-year-old linebacker at Polytechnic High School in California with plans to play football on a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. However, those plans were destroyed when Banks’s classmate, Wanetta Gibson, claimed that Banks had dragged her into a stairway at their high school and raped her.

Gibson’s claim was false, but it was Banks’s word against hers. Banks had two options: go to trial and risk spending 41 years-to-life in prison, or take a plea deal that included five years in prison, five years probation, and registering as a sex offender. Banks accepted the plea deal under the counsel of his lawyer, who told him that he stood no chance at trial because the all-white jury would “automatically assume” he was guilty because he was a “big, black teenager.”

Gibson and her mother subsequently sued the Long Beach Unified School District and won a $1.5 million settlement. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, long after Banks’s promising football career had already been tanked, that Gibson admitted she’d fabricated the entire story.

Following Gibson’s confession, Banks was exonerated with the help of the California Innocence Project. Hopeful to get his life back on track, he played for Las Vegas Locomotives of the now-defunct United Football League in 2012 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons in 2013. But while Banks finally received justice, he will never get back the years or the prospective pro football career that Gibson selfishly stole from him.

Banks’ story is timely, and it serves as a powerful warning to anyone too eager to condemn those accused of sexual assault. In fact, a film about Banks’s ordeal, Brian Banks, is set to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week.

Perhaps all the #MeToo Hollywood elites and their liberal friends should attend the screening – and keep Kavanaugh in their minds as they watch.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel

Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending