Designing national identity : recent capitols in the post-colonial world
Author(s)Vale, Lawrence J., 1959-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
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While all buildings are a product of social and cultural conditions, the architecture of national capitals raises especially complicated questions about power and identity. The architecture of a national capitol, as the seat of government within a national capital, is often a continuation of politics by other means. Part One provides an overview of the "capital city" as a concept, drawing a distinction between "evolved" capitals and "designed " capitals. It investigates the social and geopolitical reasons that under lie the choice of location of several designed capitals built during the last two hundred years. In analyzing each city, the focus is on the relationship between the "capitol" and the rest of the capital. This discussion concludes with an analysis of two ongoing projects-- Abuja, Nigeria and Dodoma, Tanzania-- where the design of new capitals is intimately connected to the search for a post-colonial "national identity." Part Two begins with this concept of "national identity," and stresses that what is put forth by government leaders and their architects as "n ational" most often contains significant biases towards preserving or advancing the hegemony of a politically ascendant group . In cases where an entire new capital is not commissioned, much of these biases can get channeled into the design of a new capitol complex instead. "National Identity," when given architectural representation in a building designed to house a national legislature, is a product of these preferences. Moreover, what is termed "n ational identity" is also closely tied to both "international" identity and to the personal identities of the architects and sponsoring politicians. These issues are discussed in relation to four recently-completed capitol complexes, in Papua New Guinea, Kuwait, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Each national assembly building is a monumental edifice for a fledgling institution. Each has been designed to symbolize a highly plural post-colonial state, but reveals both subnational and supranational strains. Part Three compares and contrasts the spatial and iconographical treatment of cultural pluralism and democratic institutions in each of the four case studies, stressing the limitations of buildings that are either too literal or too abstract. It emphasizes that designers should recognize that these buildings play an ever-changing political role , and that they be conscious of the gap between their clients' (and their own) hegemonic preferences and the more inclusive promises implied by a building that is called a "national" assembly. It stresses that designers be aware of the ways that architectural idealizations may be used not to anticipate some more perfect future order but to mask the severe abuses of power in the present. It concludes with a discussion about how to improve the design of capitols, and offers suggestions for further research.
Thesis (M.S.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 1988.Bibliography: v. 2, leaves 345-361.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology