Topic for Debate
Nationalism and architecture
Do you think the architect works toward the glory of the nation? Is the ultimate interest of an architect, to serve his/her nation? What is the absolute that an architect works toward? The nation, self interest, the people or to provide meaning. What do you conclude?
Abdul Basit Mukri
Nationalism and architecture
Architecture toward the glory of a nation has been used for sinister ends. Look at the fascist architecture of Germany and Italy, the war monuments of Saddam's Iraq, or the building blocks in Pyonyang. An architect should serve his/her client, the local context, history, the future, new technology, his/her principles, and the environment. The State can worry about itself. Nationalism has been the curse of the 20th century.
Shiraz Allibhai
Nationalism and architecture

I totally agree that there are politicians out there that use architecture for sinister ends but nationalism is not all that bad. It is a kind of regionalism that has existed probably since a small society of men and women have existed. Everybody has a certain pride from the land, city, country, area, they come from. Each region in the world has a certain culture which is distinct from others. The only problem with nationalism is when one treats the nation as the ultimate absolute of man. When nationalism subjects their nations culture and value system on different nations ie. European colonialists, Empire of Rome, Americanism etc.

If you look at Islamic history its distinction amongst other empires were that the absolute values of man were held under the banner of the shahada, There is no God(relative absolute) but Allah(absolute Absolute), and Muhammad(Man realized) is the messenger(envoy,vicroy,representative)of Allah(absolute Absolute). Now this totally goes against the grain of Nationalism, although Islam is not totally guilt free of nationalism, regionalism and tribalism, it still had did a commendable job ruling over other nations under this banner of Islam. That is why it is so hard to classify Islamic Architecture across the Islamic lands. The Muslims took the considerations of each culture and nation, and Islamicized(if you like), unified it under the banner of the shahada. Giving it a distinct,homogenous look in each respective region in the Islamic world.

Jesus Christ said,"My(idealized man) kingdom(idealized city, world) is not of this world(accidental reality, flawwed existence, man on earth)." Islam did its best to control(if it ever were possible but they did their best) the sketchy character of man and this world. The architect can do the same with his/her pencil and paper.

I don't expect the architect to revolutionize the world, the world will be the world, but what I do expect from the architect and man is to atleast think about its own existence and the direction their life is taking. Nationhood or the powers that be, affects everything including architecture in one form or the other. The world has become lopsidded and change(if that is what is desired)only happens from a grass roots level. Your change can affect the world, even in within architecture. Begin the change with your artistic and philosophical notions of architecture and provide meaning in peoples lives with your designs. Serve your clients wishes but also provide them with new creative ideas.

Thank You
Abdul Basit Mukri
Nationalism and architecture
Dear friends,

"An architect should serve his/her client, the local context, history, the future, new technology, his/her principles, and the environment. The State can worry about itself."

"Nationalism has been the curse of the 20th century."

Shiraz, has formulated a very simple but interesting process of evolving architecture. These can be further developed as a methodology such as:

a. Serving clients and users as the most important mission.

b. Responding to context: local / national / global

c. Relevance to history, in the context development of society and culture over time.

d. Charting out a trajectory to the future, setting higher creative standards, through better practices, improvements and innovation.

e. Using appropriate technology and choice of materials: low tech / appropriate tech. / modern tech / high tech / futuristic tech etc.

f. Evolving relevant theories and principles and developing new philosophy or interpretations or enhancing the understanding of old and current philosophy or interpretations.

g. Creating environment friendly architecture and evolving sustainable architecture.

If any ideology or practice becomes imbalanced by going to the extremes, such as nationalism under dictators or presidents, it becomes a curse for the people and architecture of that time reflects this curse in built form.

So the clear message is to seek the balance and harmony in architecture, but then deconstruction has a new interpretation of seemingly imbalance/ disorder and contrasting / contradictory elements fused together into a higher or different kind of order and yet it achieves a new synthesis of form.

If any ideology and philosophy fulfils the most basic: the needs and aspiration of the people, users and client, it has a meaning till these are fulfilled with a humane concern. But when there is an element of arrogance and greater ego and tries to be superhuman, it degenerates into a curse. The same is the case with nationalism.

In conclusion I would submit that the absolute for an architect is to work for architecture and seek his / her happiness and satisfaction through its creation. In this way, it becomes like a prayer to the God Almighty or a poetry expressing the beauty of a given culture or a student thesis in an architecture school reflecting new emerging philosophy.

with best wishes,
Akhtar Chauhan


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