Monday, February 25, 2008

Political Architecture: Part Deux?

I’ve mentioned the idea of political architecture before. And that catch-phrase seems to bring quite a bit of you to this little blog. Especially lately, which makes me wonder if this competition has anything to do with it.

It is an intriguing proposal, isn’t it? To re-imagine such a powerful image of leadership?

It seems to be an exercise in extremes. Protection versus Access. Public Right versus Private Necessity. Authority versus Humility. One imagines the home of our President to be a place that commands respect, but still feels relatable to the citizen, at home in some suburb, in some state somewhere. It necessitates an air of pomp and circumstance, given the history-changing events that will inevitably happen. But, one thinks, it should also allow the President to feel at ease, as anyone does in the comfort of the place they call home.

Is the challenge harder today than some 200 years ago, when the first White house was designed? Perhaps, yes, given that the aesthetic of a government building, at that time, was usually clear; to express democracy, one needed a neo-classical structure to align itself with the noble roots of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance. Also, given the complexities that have arisen with regards to security and protection, one can forget the public access enjoyed during Andrew Jackson’s infamous inaugural celebration.

Yes, 200 years later, you have a myriad of issues that perhaps were never imagined years ago. As a prominent symbol of a nation that has, as of late, been reviled as much as we would hope it is revered, it is a prime target. The home is a bunker, the event hall is a safe house. Now, one imagines the White House needing the strength to withstand both the scrutiny of dignitaries and armed attacks.

Yet, as a symbol of what we wish for our government, our nation to stand for, images of bunkers and safe houses don’t quite cut it. One doesn’t read freedom in windowless concrete walls. One does aspire to liberty when they are coddled in a cage. I guess that’s why this problem intrigues me so much - the balance of dichotomies, the potential invention of a new way to communicate age-old values in a day when such values need to be broadcast.

So, whatever readers come here, I encourage you to take a chance, submit an idea, and expose the world to your way of thought. It might just change the world. Submissions are being accepted between March 1, 2008 and April 20, 2008.


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