The Tomb and the Monument

“Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfils a function is to be excluded from the domain of art.”

– Adolf Loos, architectural theorist

There is an elegant truth to this statement. Whilst I might argue that all built structures have architecture in their DNA – that architecture is an inclusive aspect of society rather than something relegated to the realm of the privileged – architecture is also something that carries a gravitas with it. It forms a sociocultural marker in time; it is a manifestation of this very abstract of human comprehensions that forms an indelible mark on our landscapes and cityscapes.

Monuments are an important part of our collective architectural language. More than anything, they serve as these markers in time: as iconic images that remind us of particular periods in our history. Parts of that history may be good and parts of it may be bad, but it is history and as such serves an incredibly intricate and vital purpose of the human experience. History teaches us: it teaches us how to live, it teaches us about the mistakes made by human beings driven by passionate purpose and ideology, the great triumphs of mankind and how they were achieved. But above all else, it equips us with the cognitive skill set requisite in making complex decisions as we chart a brighter future for our society.

There are far greater issues at hand that plague society than the idea of mere destruction of landmarks. Yes, the argument for destruction in order to create something new out of that debris is a rather romantic and thus enticing notion, especially for someone of a creative inclination. But selectively destroying portions of history in order to create a tailored version of it siphons-off valuable intellectual energy that could be employed to better effect in actually doing positive work that can uplift our existing society.

The eradication of these edifices is therefore counterproductive to building a stronger, intellectually healthier society. Instead, it diminishes all that was done to achieve the present victories. We cannot be selective when it comes to something like history. History, time… these are entities far greater than any single human being. All we can do as citizens keen on architecting a better society is to learn from them, both the good and the bad, to internalise those lessons, to properly comprehend them, and then begin to formulate our blueprints for the future.

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