Like many of you, I have been watching events unfold in the USA with interest. Yes, I know that Maximus and Leviathan may be rolling over in their watery graves for me even approaching such a topic – after all, this is a blog dedicated to architecture, in Wellington, rather than political events in Washington. But there is a strong link, which I will get to later I’m sure.
But firstly: I’ve also been watching the rerun of Lord of the Rings last night, and I couldn’t help notice the similarities of the mob storming the Capitol, to that of the Orcs storming Helm’s Deep. Swarming all over the walls, lots of flag-waving, ugly hairy people of dubious parentage shouting incoherent slogans of maligned political factions. Sauron! Saruman! Trump! YouEssAyy! Gargh! At some point the voices all meld into one mass, and the chanting and the babble morph’s into something else: just pure rage against not having the person they want in charge, never mind the legality.
The costumes are much the same too for most of them: scraps of leather, maga helmets, pointy spears and clubs held in gloved hands, the Washington hordes had marginally more colour than those conjured up by Saruman, Tolkien and Jackson, but the movement swarming up over the barricades was very similar – jostling, climbing up walls, occasionally getting thrown off back into the crowd below.
Once inside the Citadel of course there were some clear differences: less killing and stabbing with pointy things by the Maga mob than by the Orcs, and I certainly never saw any Orcs taking selfies or sitting in chairs in committee rooms. But the Orcs definitely had more focus on their task, and more intelligence it would seem, but just the same amount of self-justification.
Some of you may feel that I am being too irreverent, even for something as irreverent as The Eye of the Fish: but hey, we’ve had to put up with four years of this bullshit being spouted by the orange-hued liar who sits in power and refuses to go away, so as far as I am concerned we are allowed to take the mickey out of him as much as we want. I know that despite my fervent wishes, the tangerine man will not lose his head like so many of the Orcs did, forcibly lopped off and soaring into the crowd like a ball booted by Beckham, but instead there is a small chance of him perhaps being locked up for a long time.
Again, probably not locked up in a dank stone tomb getting fed once a week on fetid gruel or an old Orc bone, washed down with a pint of his own urine, although he certainly deserves nothing less. Instead, if he does go to jail, his obscene wealth will probably ensure that he is quartered in relative luxury with a fine pair of orange overalls to match his face, and good quality meals of vegetables – which of course he would hate, preferring burgers instead.
The main thing of course is that whoever locks him up would take away his phone and his twitter account so that we can stop the endless line of drivel that emanates from his mouth and his thumbs. I yearn for a Twit-free world. Much to my surprise therefore is that I have just found out that the Eye of the Fish itself has a Twitter account, @eyeofthefish – although I don’t know how to use it and it hasn’t been used for about 10 years. Hmmm.
But getting to the architecture part of this particular blog post: I recently unearthed an example of an Executive Order from the out-going Resident of the White House (el Hombre Blanca Casa), where he argues strongly against the use of Modernism for Washington civic buildings. It is reasonably intelligently written, so that rules out having been written by el Bad Hombre himself (having the attention span of a gnat), but it has evidently been written by someone of architectural intelligence, arguing for buildings only of a Classical style. Like a true fascist he wants only edifying architecture – just like Albert Speer he notes that:
“It is time to update the policies guiding Federal architecture to address these problems and ensure that architects designing Federal buildings serve their clients, the American people. New Federal building designs should, like America’s beloved landmark buildings, uplift and beautify public spaces, inspire the human spirit, enable the United States, command respect from the general public, and, as appropriate, respect the architectural heritage of a region. They should also be visibly identifiable as civic buildings and should be selected with input from the local community. Classical and other traditional architecture, as practiced both historically and by today’s architects, have proven their ability to meet these design criteria and to more than satisfy today’s functional, technical, and sustainable needs.”
This was published on 20 December 2020 – in the midst of the pandemic sweeping across the USA – not something that you may think was of the most pressing importance, but clearly at least someone in the rump administration must think it was important.
Yes, he’s none too fond of Brutalist architecture either. It seems that only truly Classical architecture suits the fascist and the mob, seen below obligingly having their photo taken, complete with name tags of the jobs they had (the little bearded chappie has since been fired).
I suspect that one of the buildings that has sparked off this diatribe is probably the most recent of Washington’s edifices: Sir David Adjaye’s National Museum for the African American History and Culture, just up the Mall from the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
It is a challenging building, but also beautiful – and definitely not Classical. It is bronzed, metallic, angular, undeniably modern and defiantly non-marble. It is scary for some people, as it hides its innards by day, only showing its true grit at night. For Resident 45 to issue this missive so late in his Residency is a curious move – only one month out from being ousted for good, did the tangerine man believe, like Hitler before him, that a Thousand Year Reich lay ahead? An unending legacy of Ivanka and Don Junior and even little Barron perhaps, one day in the future, leading the country to victory over itself? When all the Media is Fake, who should you believe?
Perhaps there is only one true answer to all this: that taken by the Romanian people when their dictator Ceausescu (and his wife) got too big for their boots, despite having built a vast classical-style marble palace that squandered millions, billions, and probably zillions of leu – it means Lion, I checked – and they were taken outside and summarily executed on the footpath in a short spray of bullets. It may not be pretty, but it is quite definitely final, refreshingly public and in certain cases, simply quite deserving.