We create culture together by solidifying our perceptions, ideas, and behaviours into the infrastructure and architecture that reinforce the rules, traditions, and rituals of a social group as habits that are very difficult to change. These pathways of the mind become rivers of actions that empty into large reservoirs of collective social, economic, and political forces that are a deep and systemic ocean of group dynamics.
Because nation states are legitimized by the monopoly of force over a particular region with arbitrarily set boundaries, the hoarding of resources and territory necessarily lead to behaviours that are aggressive, violent, and oppressive to those who are marginalized by their own internal logic of rules and laws to maintain the social order. Violence is justified to maintain the status quo for those who wield power.
A transcript of an excerpt from the excellent Nice Try! podcast about Utopias and how they go wrong. This episode is called Germania: Architecture in a Fascist Utopia. Traces of this fascist utopia still exist in modern Berlin.
This excerpt starts at around 32:50.
Speer was handily able to distance himself from an evil system he was not just participating in, but perpetuating. It’s chilling.
It spells out so clearly that Nazi Germany’s worst atrocities and many atrocities the world over were not only the ideas of singular evil men. They were supported and enacted by systems, by groups of people who woke up in the morning and went to offices to work on it.
We try to recount these stories in monuments and plaques, as though history is a grandiose series of battles and not something enacted in nine-to-fives.
And in the meantime, more buildings go up. Land is moved. A patchwork of monuments and plaques can’t keep up. Because we are all surrounded by so much new development, so many rising towers are transforming the faces of the cities around us. It’s difficult to keep track of all the forces at play, to know who they were built for and who paid for them and which ones intend to do good. Because at the end of the day, all structures are, in some ways, ideology made manifest. They’re so much bigger than any of us. We just look around and feel so small.
In contrast, there is greater realization that by designing for people on the margins, we can create better design for everyone.