Nationalism and architecture: An introduction
Date of this Version
After slaying Abel, Cain left and went into the wilderness, the land of wandering- the land of Nod. When he ended his nomadic migrancy and settled, the Book of Genesis records that ’he built a city. It is this first step towards defining dominion that perhaps precedes questions of Israel, Hellas and so on in the ancient world, where we have record of a claim of homeland. Perhaps it is with Hellas that we first encounter the relationships of dominion, homeland, architecture, and otherness; as Hellas was determined as much by itself as by what it was not - it was not barbaric. This bound dominion was embedded with a sense of civilisation, but also with a sense of otherness beyond, an otherness that can interfere with claims to particularity, identity and even existence. The Romans described unmapped territories as hinc sunt leones, where terra incognita carries the equivalent danger that ‘there are lions there.’ In the Philippics, in his political speech against Marcus Antonius, Cicero’s use of nationes differs from that of civitas, suggesting an inferior sense of the first and the superior sense of the latter. At the same time Cicero’s sentence places both nationes and civitas in simile, in that a nation, its civic and community space - including the city and its architecture, are somehow equal and convertible terms that are connected in a relationship.¹ The civilizing sense of making bound cities, and therefore making worlds of civilised culture, is a fundamental aspect of this relationship: to build is to edify, to edify is to not only make aggregations of buildings and infrastructure but cultural worlds of belonging, homeland and dominion. Domus, domicile, home, heimat² - these are notions that exist across various cultures in various guises that are at the very core of particular architectural habitats defining the city as homeland. The relationship between making architecture and making the world of homeland is therefore vital. Beyond this, many questions arise: the city is a public domain, it is a collective space, a space of bios politkos - who might the body politic be and how do they relate to the city and its architecture?
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