“No single major piece of architecture in the twentieth century can be taken out of its political context and its relationship with power.” So argues theorist and historian Jean-Louis Cohen in this lecture delivered at the Berlage Institute in October, 2006, titled “The politics of memory: Monuments to legitimacy.” Focusing specifically on landscapes of war and reconstruction in twentieth century Europe and their intimate relationship with structures of power, Cohen approaches the tenet that “all design is political” by examining the place of buildings in the deeply politicized landscapes of collective memory.
The relationship between architecture and power is complex and reciprocal. Regimes and revolutionaries alike employ architecture as a mechanism for expressing and executing their respective desires of stability and subversion. Accordingly, public architecture and public space bear the imprint of the political ideations that yield them and assume an operative function in the service of ideology. Architecture, in its role as a repository of collective memory and through its ability to shape public space and mold public discourse, is likewise capable of affecting the operation and exertion of power. Relics of history—residual architecture—play into our cultural fetishizations of nostalgia and encourage the translocation of ideologies between past and present.
Watch other lectures in The Berlage Archive series:
- The Berlage Archive: Jacques Herzog (1998)
- The Berlage Archive: Elizabeth Diller (1998)
- The Berlage Archive: Toyo Ito (1999)
- The Berlage Archive: David Chipperfield (2001)
- The Berlage Archive: Luis Fernandez Galiano Theory Master Class (1994)
- The Berlage Archive: Rem Koolhaas + Kenneth Frampton (1998)
- The Berlage Archive: Stefano Boeri (2001)
- The Berlage Archive: Elia Zenghelis (2001)
- The Berlage Archive: Thom Mayne (1996)
- The Berlage Archive: Julius Shulman (2000)
- The Berlage Archive: Leon Krier (2010)
ArchDaily has teamed up with the The Berlage to provide exclusive access to their newly digitized archive of lectures. The Berlage is a postgraduate international institute where some of the world’s most renowned architects, thinkers, designers, photographers and other professionals come to share, exchange and critically reflect upon their ideas. Over the last 24 years, The Berlage has built up an extensive archive of seminal lectures. Thanks to this partnership we can now share them with you. ArchDaily is committed to providing inspiration and knowledge to architects all over the world, so please look forward to monthly publications of these lectures during the coming year.