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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.




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.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou



RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.





Via RT…

A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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