HAA 71 - Making Buildings Beautiful





Patricio Del Real

Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm

Should the U.S. government or any government have an official style, and if so, what style should it be? The recent presidential executive order, called “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” has brought the problem of beauty and the question of style centerstage to cultural debates on architecture and the built environment. But it’s not a new debate. This undergraduate lecture course examines the ways architecture has serviced the nation-state, and advanced political, economic and social ideologies. It examines how architecture has been used as a tool of political and cultural power and a technique for social governance. We will focus on the 20th and 21st Century, examining case studies from across the globe. We will explore paradigmatic examples of aesthetic fundamentalism such as the embrace of classical architecture in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, and the promotion of architectural modernism by the Vargas’ Dictatorship in Brazil, and Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. We will look at memorialization through architecture such as the recent National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC and the Ningbo History Museum in China; engage current debates on monuments and collective memory; and explore the democratizing use of contemporary architecture and urbanism in Colombia. The course looks at “the good, the bad and the ugly” examining architectural aesthetics as a form of cultural power. It focuses on pressing issues affecting our shared built environment as we confront an uncertain future. In short, we will look at why, today, Architecture continues to have meaning, and answer whether buildings need to be “beautiful” or significant.