architecture and creeping fascism…
If there is one thing that we now know is that we – collectively – create our own reality. There is no divine hand intervening in our day-to-day lives. It is us. It is in our political decisions that we create the world around us.
And one of the most fundamental ways in which we create our reality is in our architecture.
Anyone who has been to Paris, or Prague, or Washington, or Buenos Aires (or a thousand other places) can see how we once saw ourselves and our place in the world. Maybe they reflect only our ideals – our ideas of beauty, community, hope – and that these ideals were never realized in the political realities of the time. But yet, we had these symbols around us, to remind us of what we might collectively one day become.
Does architecture fundamentally change how we go about our business? Absolutely. Does it affect how we see our place in the community? Absolutely.
Can it reflect our hopes and dreams and ideals? Of course.
So what are we to make of the new buildings going up on the University of Toronto campus? I was stunned standing before this, camera in hand.
What are we to make of this monolithic monstrosity?
What does it say about education? About how U of T views its students?
What does it say about the University of Toronto’s place in the downtown Toronto community?
What does it say about the role of the university in shaping the youth of today?
Where do these buildings take us? What kind of future do they foresee?
We are the world we live in. Are these to instruct us on the reality of hyper-conformity? Hyper surveillance?
A glass world were no one is different, where no one can hide?
Have we seen the final end of “individualism”? Have we simply transported the ideals of the suburban zeitgeist into the downtown?
Are these the logical conclusion of the printing press, the industrial revolution, and post-modern consumer society?
Do the architects for the universities know something we do not?
And look at this thing! This is possibly my favourite. It is so perfectly total in its authoritarianism it looks somehow fake!
What with the blue sky and clouds reflecting off its sheer edifice.
It is almost beautiful in its perfection.
And it’s not just the University of Toronto. The same buildings are going up on the campuses of many Canadian universities.
What does this new Business School building going up at St. Mary’s University say about our relationship to nature?
What about the nature of business education itself?
Will we live in the endless reflections of reality?
What about the library at Dalhousie? Look at this thing! I mean really look!
Are we running straight into some Blade Runner dystopian universe?
And who approves of these things? What group of hunched over bitterly unloved bureaucrats would sit around the table and say “yes, this is it!”?
If you look beyond the economic bullshit of Ayn Rand’s libertarianism, you enter this world were the world is run by the destroyers of life.
For no Dagny Taggart or Hank Reardon would build this kind of world. There is no future in this view. There are no dreams in these buildings.
These are about authoritarian control.
Is it any surprise that the best other historical models we have of this type of architect is from the old Soviet East-Bloc communist regimes?
I weep before these buildings. I weep for what they portend. I weep for the battles-of-freedom yet to come.