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May 24, 2006

Comments

Chuckles

[...the glorification of the state through gigantism inevitably means the reduction of the individual to insignificance...]

A central tenet of much religious architecture. The purpose of the Cathedral is to humble the individual and diminish the spirit - tents and arks be damned.
Statism inevitably gives birth to white elephant projects such as these and the decline of much urban architecture is more of the same.

Matt

The Ryugyong Hotel is a monument to the failure of the North Korean state.

Andrew

"A central tenet of much religious architecture. The purpose of the Cathedral is to humble the individual and diminish the spirit - tents and arks be damned."

But if we take this analogy seriously - why are many cathedrals so beautiful, when their medieval construction was presumably subject to the same problems as communist architecture - gigantism, unaccountability, centralization, etc?

Ross

PJ O'Rourke, after a trip to Eastern Europe, once wrote "Commies love concrete". He's not wrong.

Chuckles

[...why are many cathedrals so beautiful...]

Some religions are more equal than others. Doesnt change the fact that the purpose of gigantism as discussed is to humble the individual.

Steve Edwards

I heard somewhere that this hotel is basically unused because they couldn't afford essential amenities. Is this true?

Frank McGahon

The principal reason it's unused is that it's not (ever going to be) finished. Have a look at the crane on the top, note the absence of windows and the unfinished state of the building at the ground. Of course this might have something to do with not affording essential amenities like running water, consistent electricity and workers who aren't starving.

Frank McGahon

It looks even more menacing in this view:

http://www.wikimapia.org/#y=39036378&x=125730726&z=18&l=0&m=h

Abiola

I think the following three articles explain precisely why communist architecture was so much worse than what the medieval church brought into being.

http://www.ukrweekly.com/Archive/2000/290016.shtml
http://archrecord.construction.com/inthecause/onTheState/0310soviet.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_realism

The medieval Church never had at its disposal methods of intimidation nearly as efficient and all-embracing as that enjoyed by communists, and we see this same mechanism at work in the universal mediocrity of Soviet painting; where a Michelangelo could defy the Church and yet live to be celebrated, even to keep touting yesterday's Party-line when a new one had just come down from above often meant certain death. Anyone expecting such a system to provide room for the emergence of a communist-equivalent of Michelangelo or Donato Bramante is living in a dream world.

Laurence

"...Some religions are more equal than others. Doesnt change the fact that the purpose of gigantism as discussed is to humble the individual..."

Gigantic or not, I would argue that religious structures *tend* to be beautiful; it's the rule rather the exception. This doesn't just apply to European cathedrals, but to Hindu temples in India, pre-Christian structures such as the Pantheon, Shinto shrines in Japan, and so on. By contrast, the ugliest religious buildings I've seen are the multiplicity of "NG Kerk" churches that seem to assault your eyes everywhere you go in South Africa: apartheid South Africa seemingly had one architect who designed all the schools, all the government bureaus, and all the churches. (Whoever he was, he sure loved yellow face brick.) In the old days, the NGK was more an arm of government than a religion in its own right, and that government connection is not coincidental, as Abiola pointed out: individual genius tends to get disregarded in a bureaucratic planning office, and replaced with lowest-common-denominator mediocrity.

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