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Take The War To The Palaces: About The Interrelation Between Monuments And Social Change

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Alexander Catina
London Metropolitan University London UK

Monuments can be seen as physical evidence for the attempt to legitimise a particular type of society. The construction of a monument has therefore the ability to stand for political power mediated through architecture. Monuments have been built in order to overrule the existing structure of values and to alter the perception of the historical heritage. The architecture of monuments has also been used as an armature for oppression, which is embodied in the consciousness of the people in form of the physical building.
Bringing down the walls of the monument is an act of demolition that can have an impact on social development. History has shown that the weakest link in a system of thought is its built manifestation: the monument as the vulnerable shelter of hollow ideology. Attacking the building representing the centre of the social conflict of a society weakens the structure of the system as a whole. Thus from the time of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon to the present day social history is founded on ruins.
In an age in which we can build more durably than ever before the role of the monument seems to have been altered. Its inability to adapt to the fast developments of modern societies helps reveal that monumental architecture relies on foundations rooted in backward thinking. But how can we overcome the monumental legacies of the past without losing our identity?
Bucharest, Berlin and Jerusalem are the stages of my investigation into the conflict between the grown urban fabric of the city – which stands for the possibility of social development -- and the fateful bluntness of the monument.
In my dissertation I argue for a healing demolition of monuments that are oppressing our perception of history as an ongoing process of change. However, I also see a chance for the integration of the monument. The value of the monument as a common idea replaces the physical monument and becomes a structural member, which holds up the roof of society.

Alexander Catina

Aleks Catina's dissertation mounts a subtle argument about the relations between monuments and power, using a series of three examples which begin near the present and move backward in time. Except that each of his cases--the House of the People in Bucharest, the Reichstag in Berlin and the Temple in Jerusalem--remains alive, and contentious, in the present. He gives unequal attention to the three, partly because of where he is coming from--he is Rumanian--but also because the later chapters of this old story do not need to be told at the same length. The story ends where it began, in Bucharest, with an imaginative practical proposal. This work is powerfully thought, and just as powerfully felt. It is almost alarming to find someone so young with such a deep and convincing sense of how much of our history is built on ruins and how much current thinking is tangled with the ruined remnants of past systems of thought.

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