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The Doric Columns Of Dachau

Manhattan real estate developer as defender of Classical architecture? Nazism in our time!
Front Steps and Columns of the Supreme Court
Stormtroopers in stone! (Mint Images/Getty Images)

You’ll never believe what Trump is up to now!

That’s an actual Yale University historian claiming that the White House’s desire that future federal buildings be constructed according to the Classical (Greco-Roman) style which is already standard in historic Washington buildings is a sign of the coming Nazification of America. (Note well: actual Hitler, and actual Mussolini, built horrible Modernist buildings as their signature styles.) If you don’t build this ugly-ass modern crap that nobody but professors and architecture critics like, you’re a Nazi!

In this great piece, Justin Lee waylays these screaming-meemies. Lee teaches at a Brutalist university (UC Irvine) so hideous that the producers of Planet of the Apes chose it as an example of dystopian architecture. Excerpts:

Knowledge of the post hoc ergo propter hoc informal fallacy seems not to have penetrated Yale’s rarified air. Even so, the Nazi infatuation with classicism was far from straightforward. They embraced a utilitarian and minimalist bastardization of classical forms. This “stripped neoclassicism” was modern in ways hostile to the neoclassicism embraced by the United States. Hitler himself rejected “stupid imitations of the past” and insisted that the modernist axiom “form should follow function” be observed. As the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture notes, Hitler was strongly influenced by Bauhaus, a quintessentially German aesthetic which many see as the apogee of architectural modernism. Bauhaus — its philosophy and some members of its school — was even used in the design of certain concentration camps. Contra Professor Gilmore, Doric columns do not lead to Dachau.

Lee cites one critic of the president’s saying that his proposal is a sin against “diversity.” Which is incredibly trite and idiotic. Ours is an Enlightenment Republic founded on the belief that Greco-Roman ideals are universal, and universally accessible. More:

Hurley’s concern over the aesthetic predilections of a “white male elite” can equally be extended to the modernist, postmodernist, and hypermodernist alternatives to classical and traditional architecture. Their origins are no less white. Indeed, for anyone who gives credence to the category of “whiteness” while also valuing consistency, these alternatives are significantly whiter. Whereas one encounters some version of metaphysical realism everywhere humans have established communities, modernism and hypermodernism are uniquely the products of white cultural decadence.

“Hypermodernism,” argues [Notre Dame architecture professor Philip] Bess,

is essentially modernism shorn of its confident consensus and moral and rationalist agendas. … Put another way, hypermodernism is modernism unmasked. It is subjectivism, relativism, and individualism writ in and at the scale of buildings and cities. Hypermodernism is the architecture of the global economy, taking as premises certain modern material conditions and construction practices, and therefore certain aesthetic possibilities that follow from them.

Hypermodernism is exactly what its detractors claim it to be: a nihilistic, often narcissistic, therapeutic technique for reconciling atomized individuals to their place within the enervating decadence of the late-capitalist order.

Read it all.It’s pretty great. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me more likely to sympathize with Trump than his enemies. Donald Trump, the building of Trump Tower and various casinos, is nobody’s idea of an architectural good-taste-haver, but good grief, when the academic and cultural elites accuse him of being a fascist simply for questioning the horrible buildings they uglify the public space with, using taxpayer money, then I’m all for him. Note well: if Trump wanted to build federal buildings in the style of condo towers or casinos, I’d be all against him. He’s talking about making federal buildings look like the classical style that most everybody loves and associates with the federal government. 

And for this, he’s a Nazi, according to a Yale professor and others.

The post-1950 buildings in Washington are almost uniformly hideous. They make you want to hate the government. When I first moved to DC, I would look at the old Classical buildings, and feel a sense of civic pride, of elevation. Then I would look at the more recent federal buildings, and feel that the state was nothing but a faceless hulk that wanted to crush people. This below, though not technically a US Government building, gets my vote for the ugliest Modernist carbuncle in Washington. It’s the Pan American Health Organization headquarters (1965):


I was surprised to realize it was the HQ of a government agency. I thought it was the Fram corporation’s mothership: