The Architecture Of Power And Authority

In this clip from his 1980 television series “The Shock of the New,” now being re-shown by the BBC, Robert Hughes peels apart how design is wielded as a tool by those in power to tell a story without words. The iconic buildings of post-World War II America (e.g. New York City’s Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center) mirror the aesthetic of Mussolini’s Italy, a style combining “the myth of ancient Rome and vision of a technocratic future”:

All the ingredients of an architecture of state power as imagined by the totalitarians of the twentieth century are also present in what used to in the fifties be called the architecture of democracy…[expressing] the centralization of power. What comes out is not the difference between America and Russia, but the similarities between the corporate and the bureaucratic states of mind.

, , , ,

  • TapMeYouFascists

    In my home town of Rockford, Illinois, the feds have erected a monstrous courthouse. It’s easily one of the largest structures in the city. Its sharp lines defy gravity with buttressing concrete and alloyed metals and plastics. The angles of the building are somehow at once aggressive and morose.  Amidst the surrounding decrepit and decaying infrastructure; pot holes on the adjacent street, weedy brown-fields of former factories, old brick buildings with newer bricks where windows once shown; this building stands apart. Imposing, Formal, Austere.

  • TapMeYouFascists

    In my home town of Rockford, Illinois, the feds have erected a monstrous courthouse. It’s easily one of the largest structures in the city. Its sharp lines defy gravity with buttressing concrete and alloyed metals and plastics. The angles of the building are somehow at once aggressive and morose.  Amidst the surrounding decrepit and decaying infrastructure; pot holes on the adjacent street, weedy brown-fields of former factories, old brick buildings with newer bricks where windows once shown; this building stands apart. Imposing, Formal, Austere.

    • TapMeYouFascists

      Co-incidentally, TPTB are also rebuilding the rail lines and terminal
      across the street from the courthouse to accommodate passengers instead
      of the steel freight of the last decades. It’s almost like they’re
      gearing up to legally process a shit ton of people out of Chicago.

    • Matt Staggs

      Apparently, the Romans used to do the same kind of thing in their backwater territories as way of  intimidating the locals. 

    • godozo

      The same thing with the new Federal Courthouse Block in Hammond Indiana. The front is complete with boxes for windows that don’t exist (don’t think that windows were intended for those boxes, and intentionally), and the main/tallest part of the building is towards the back.

      I’ve always defined the building as Brooding, Foreboding and Forbidding, but like the Rockford building it stands apart from the nearly deserted atmosphere (complete with the signs of an art colony that was attempted and left for dead) that composes downtown Hammond.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Washington, DC
    the capital of totalitarian designs

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    “Any one of those buildings there you can imagine with an Eagle on top or a Swastika or a Hammer and Sickle, it makes very little difference to the builders”