Strange Harvest
Architecture / Design / Art
StrangeHarvest is written and collated by Sam Jacob.


White Power



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So Switzerland has banned minarets. In a sense, that is no real surprise coming from the home of architectural minimalism. There is something about the idea of 'purity' or 'essence' propagated by the cult of minimalism seems to echo other kinds of 'purity' which have far more sinister undertones.

Minimalism is more than anything the art of exclusion. Its effort is to edit out all that is somehow impure, to resist the presence of foreign bodies from its domain. This ruthless edit is the source of minimalisms effect - what we might call the power of its whiteness

This kind of architecture places itself outside of politics, outside of society and outside of social concerns - as though it somehow transcends these earthly matters.

This form of abstraction (and there are many other kinds of abstraction in fields outside of architecture which don't deny more engaged forms of meaning) is of course, dangerous. Dangerous because it propagates an ideology while simultaneously denying that it does so. This slight of hand is most likely used where concentrations of wealth and privilege intersect, imparting an innocence to guilty situations. Poetry here (and again, there are many 'good' types of poetry outside of architecture) is - to coin a phrase - the last refuge of the scoundrel. That's to say the poetry of form and light and material acts as a kind of plausible deniability.

It's interesting to see the language of architecture caught up in this ideological crossfire. This episode underlines how architectures language is part of wider culture. That what it represents and how it represents it is deeply significant.



Posted by anothersam at December 6, 2009 2:57 AM.

7 Comments

I agree that Minimalism is the art of exclusion, so much in fact that it is also the exclusion of humanity (all the pretty minimalistic pictures are without the end users if you notice). That is why it "places itself outside of" and "transcends (...) earthly matters".

Obviously Architecture is Politics, as is all Art, however in this case I believe that more than being an argument it is an excuse.

In reality over all of Switzerland's there are only 4 minarets. Hardly an invasion! Further more Architecture is also freedom of speech and in this case freedom of worship.

To ban minarets one would have to ban church towers as well. A much better compromise though was to limit the height of all new religious elements so they have dominance only over the close neighbourhood.

And to those who like to justify this ban on the grounds that in some (or even most) Muslim countries they have much harder restrictions on other religions/cultures I say two wrongs do not make a right and the existence of bad people should not be used as a pretext for all people to be allowed to be bad.

Will said:

I'm not sure about this Sam. For a start I fear that the referendum might not have turned out very differently in Britain, and we're not exactly a country that's at home with minimalism. Also I really don't believe that any consideration of architectural merit was involved in the Swiss voters' decision, it was just a stick to beat Muslims with, and is no more an endorsement of minimalism than the French ban on headscarves in schools is an endorsement of Coco Chanel. And fascists aren't generally fond of minimalism - the Nazis derided the Weissenhof as something Arabs might build, which I suppose brings the point full circle. (Although I suppose a lot of Mussolini's building was quite minimalist, EUR and all that.)

Although I completely agree when you say that minimalism is often used to project innocence where none exists (or transparency where none exists).

alex said:

hmm, interesting idea. but its my understanding the primarily French regions of Switzerland rejected minaret construction. mirroring the above comments, I dont associated dogmatic minimalism with the French so much.

Jens said:

Living in Geneva I have a few comments. At least here the minaret ban was rejected (still 40% voted for it - the lowest number in Switzerland)

I can follow the idea of Minimalism in this context. The last 10 - 15 years this trend has especially been used for building a lot of new schools in CH. I have a couple in my neighborhood and one is really hardcore minimalist reducing you to an object in a totally dominated space. The other (older one) is more part of the denser neighborhood and functions as the local playground after school hours.

But what really made me think about minimalism - a la suisse - was when I went to a Lefebvre conference at ETH last week. The conference was held in the HIT building (baumschlager & eberle (austrians actually)) and it was quite an interesting experience.

The building itself felt intimidating - like an egyptian tomb (http://www.archphoto.com/eth-hit.html) but more interestingly the place did not really have spaces for non hierarchical interaction (except a restaurant and improvised cafes which were very hard to find) As somebody said: Lefebvre would have hated this :-)

Splatterdbastard said:

Minimalism is nothing more than a rejection of clutter. The minaret ban was an act of defiance to the islamic terrorwhores. If only the UK and US would take notice of this rejection. Fortunately for the terrorwhores(muslims) Switzerland is smallpotatoes in comparison to the rest of Europe as well as the rest of the world.

unpopuar said:

paste from wikipedia:
"Correlation does not imply causation" is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other. The opposite belief, correlation proves causation, is a logical fallacy by which two events that occur together are claimed to have a cause-and-effect relationship.

This swipe at modern architecture is very far fetched given the ban on minarets as a starting point.
Perhaps the authors dislike of minimalism and so called good taste shouldn't cloud his outlook so much that minimalism is equated with an aesthetic veneer that justifies fascism. No matter how much you want a link to be there doesn't mean its actually true.

Tyler said:

The banning of minarets was, primarily, a socio-political issue - aesthetic grounds for their dismissal is trivial.

The minaret has, historically, been a symbol of agression, dominance and occupation - not a symbol of religion. Minarets were and are erected to show a local population that they have been conquered.

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Contents:

More Scenes In Cartoon Deserta

Eiffel X-Rays

Beyond: Values and Symptoms

Sub Plan

Shenzhen: Window of the World

White Power

Generic Powerpoint Template: Delivering Bad News

Duplicate Array

The Best New Building In London

Book Review: The Infrastructural City

A Balloon in the Pantheon

Letters From The Pantheon

Henry Moore in Motion

On My Steel Horse I Ride

The Michael Jackson Monument Design Competition

Now Showing: John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt

Obscure Design Typologies: Life Guard Chairs

Osama bin Laden Cigarette Lighter: Novelty Products as Congealed Culture

Absurd Car Crashes: A Eulogy for J.G. Ballard

Candy Pistol

Now Showing: Dan Grahams 'Rock My Religion'

This Concrete 'O': On Serotonin, the M25, and the Motorik Picturesque

Church of the Literal Narrative

Philadelphias Floating Architecture

Now Viewing: Married To The Eiffel Tower

Le Corbusiers Image Hoard: Poeme Electronique

Giant American Signs: Original Learning from Las Vegas Footage

Giant Soviet Signs Cut Into Forests

Bricks Melted Into Icicles: Napalm Decorative

C-Labs 'Unfriendly Skies' & 'Bootleg' Volume

2 The Lighthouse: Self Storage & Architectural Hallucinations

Ceci N'Est Pas Une Pipe: Infrastructure as Architectural Subconcious.

Viva Sectional Cinematography!

Now Showing: The Installation of an Irreversible Axis on a Dynamic Timeline

Plug: Junk Jet

Sim Seasons Greetings! The Rise of Neo-Winter

Geography in Bad, Festive Drag.

The Ruins of the Future

High Tech As Steampunk ...

On The Retro Infrastructural

Simulations of Industry: High Tech Architecture and Thatcherism

David Greene: The Big Nothing

From The Factory to the Allotment: Tony Wilson, Urbanist

Koolhaas HouseLife / Gan Eden: The Revenge of Architectural Media

Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House

The Architecture of Divorce

Flagrant Delit: The Movie

Landscape as Clothing

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham Redux

Acts of Un-Building: Timelapse Demolitions

Yard Filth: Next Years Hot Look

Stonehenge: A Black Hole At The Heart Of British Architecture

The Popemobile: Mechanised Robes & Motorised Architecture

Tarmac Adam, Tarmac Eden

The Secret Language of Surface

Some Housekeeping

Information Fields: Agriculture as Media

My Bloody Valentine: Sound as Substance

A Cubist Copse: Gehrys Serpentine Pavilion

Olympic Model Protest

Spouting Off: Some Thoughts On The Fountainhead

Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction & The Morality of Detail

Floating Homes

Vintage Tradeshow Surrealism: International Grune Woche

Moving Houses: Buildings In Motion

Desktop Study: The Strange World of Sports Studio Design

Married to the Eiffel Tower: More Objectum Sexuals

60 Years of The Crazy Horse Memorial

Married to the Berlin Wall: "The Best and Sexiest Wall Ever Existed!"

Inflatable Icebergs: Sublimated Guilt Has Never Been So Fun

The Cinderella Effect: Phantom Architectures of Illumination

Two Deaths and a Retirement: The Strange Shape of British Architecture

If London Were Like New York: Antique Schizo-Manhattanism

If London Were Like Venice: Antique Geo-Poetic Speculations and Hydro-Fantasy

41 Hours in an Elevator: The Movie

NASA: Mapping the Moon with Sport

Lemon Squeezy: Design Tendencies after the Juicy Salif

Stadium Seat Mosaics

The Nihilistic Beauty of Weapons Arranged in Patterns

Light Vessel Automata

Dogs: Britains Greatest Design Obsession

Madison Avenue Modern

Detroit Sucks: The Motor Shows Last Gasp

Mies' Grave: Cut Out Model

All You Can Eat

Valentine Machine

The Tools of Re-Geography

Floating in a New Town Sky

Authentic Replicas: Football and the Franchising of Place

Folk Football: Landscape, Space and Abstraction

Haystack House

A Wishing Well with a Fat Up Pipe

The Camoufluers and the Day-Glo Battleship

Pseudoccino: Instant Coffee Foam

Yesterdays Technology, Today

Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff

On Christmas Trees, Folk Forests and Staples Office Supplies

Hampton Courts Shrouded Sculptures

Named Fabric: 20 Sponsored Pieces of Architecture at the New Museum

Form Follows Felony: The Secret Home of the Un-Dead Canoeist.

Architectural Magazines: Paranoid Beliefs, Public Autotheraphy - More on Clip/Stamp/Fold

Little Magazines Seen Today

James Bond Lives Next Door: Suburban Imagery as Industry

The Ghost of Christmas Futurism

Petrified War Machine

Military Deceptions

Chapters for an Imaginary Book About Architecture

Shrouded Plinth - Urban Striptease

In the Night Garden - Surreal Landscape of Nostalgia

Kim Jong II, The Great Architect

Pill Box Picturesque

Un Clear Monument

Place Faking: Instant Heritage for the Thames Gateway

The Marc Bolan Memorial Crash Barrier.

Warped Domesticity

The Nuclear Heritage Coast

Enjoy The Silence: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Story of O (2)

Telly Savalas Looks At Birmingham

X100: A Design Exercise

How to Plan A New Town

Carpet Bomber

In Search of Britains Vehicular History

Scenes in Cartoon Deserta

Scary Suburbanism: Why Horror is at Home in the Suburbs

Re-Make Re-Model

I Like Your Manifesto, Lets Put it to the Test-o

How to Become a Famous Architect

Northampton - Sci-fi Pop Planning Promotion

Advertising Central Milton Keynes

Baltic Exchanged

Festival of Nostalgia

The Clapham Trainwash

Airports as Music

Test Card Dummies

The Velvet Underground at the Glass House

Duplikate: Kate Moss on the Production Line of Individuality

The Museum that Ate Itself

Hollow Inside: Starbucks Foam and the Rise of Ambiguous Materials

Revisions to the Architecture of Hell

Crufts: Dogs, Design and Aesthetic Genetics

Eos Airlines: Executive Bubbles over the Atlantic

London's Ugliest Buildings

1.51 Miles Of String

Google Earths Vertiginous Mapping

Church of the Ascension and Descension

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Replica Bombs

The Invisible Bungalow

House / Boat

Reading Lines: Skateboarding and Public Space

Mountain Sculpting

Sint Lucas in BD

Bat House Competition

Old Walton Bridge

Kiruna: The Town That Moved

Spray On Magnetic Defense

Chris Cornish: Prototyping History

The Jubilee Gestalt Vase

The Most Visited Location in the UK

Anything to Feel Weightless Again: The Cargo Lifter and the Tropical Island Resort

'Its beauty will know no season'

2000 Years of Non Stop Nostalgia. Or How Half Timbering Made Me Whole Again.

Inside-out Aldwych

Backpeddling into the Future: The Historical-Futurism of British Architecture

Miss Selfridges' Feeling for Fake Snow. The Oxford St. Lights and Why We Need Artificial Winter

Nelsons Cavern

Foam Gargoyle

New Tory Logo: A Hazy Shade of Politics

Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Hans Ulrich Obrist at the Serpentine

Souvenir Empire

Celebrity Scents: The Bittersweet Smell of Success

Imperfect Pitch - Football, Space and Landscape

Product Placement: Making the Impossible Possible

Suburban Growth: Matthew Moores Field of Dreams

Perfect Sound Forever: The Secret Function of High End Stereos

Picture of the Week 1

A Little Light Product Placement

Some Advice To A Young Designer

London and on and on

In the Gallery of Ice Creams

Useless Proclamations for a Beautiful City

Mini Mies Chair

Topsy Turvy VSBA: Inverted Heros of an Upside Down Avant Guard

Harvest III: Buried Things

The Harvest II

The Harvest I

Estuary Urbanism

The Royal Families Trees

Everything Flows: ideological cartography

How Geostationary Was My Valley?

The Psychotic Utopia of the Suburbs and the Suburbanisation of War.

LegoLand London Cluster

In a Lonely Place - Under Construction

Design Will Eat Itself

Mach 3 Nitro Gel - Design that's foaming at the mouth.

Marchitecture. Architectural things to do in London this March

Metallic Jet Powered Cloud

"When we got married I had no idea he would do something like this, he just said he was going to do some decorating."

The Electric Cenotaph

Russian Rok

Commitment ...

Dinner in the Iguanadon

Trace

What happens when you cross a pen with a car?

Leg Table Leg

Florentine Building Sites

Good Morning Britain

Football Pitch: Best of British

The Sad Photographer

The First Cut is the Cheapest - Blenheim Palace: pop architecture that goes for the jugular

Book Now For Christmas

Requiem for a Toilet Seat

Architecture that Destroys

TomTom Mobile 5 / GO 700

Winning Design

Another Croydon

Holiday Snap II : Giant Glowing French Balls

Holiday Snap: Canadian War Memorial, Vimy, France

Pecha Kucha London

Anatomy of an Architectural News Story

Big Bens

First Cut - Case Closed

The Texas Tower

Its All About the Big Benjamins

G8 Security Tower

White Cubed Blues

Poundbury, unexpectedly, in the rain

The Exploding Concrete Inevitable. Lou Reed and the Casa da Musica

Swingball

Untitled (Plastic Sack and Timber)

Berlin 1945 - The Obscene Picturesque

Pizza Planet

Goal Sculptures

Interview: Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane

Previewing Cedric Price

The Mardas Touch

Building a Lionel Richie Head

Ornament is Grime 2

An Incredible Smell of Roasting Coffee

Flatpack Frenzy at New IKEA

Langlands & Bell - The House of Osama Bin Laden

Labour is kind of working

Happy Death Men

Build to Let

Architectural Criticism gets Sharp

Niagara Falls

Ornament is Grime

FA(ke) Cup

Q&A: Wouter Vanstiphout

X-treme urinals

Unigate Cowscape

Spray-on Snow

From the Baffler ...

One in a Taxi

The Queen Machine

The Knork

Venturi, Scott Brown and my love that dare not speak its name.

Polictical Placards

The Ketchup Conumdrum

Douglas Coupland: Design and Fiction

It's a Small World

Images de Parfums

Soft Carcass

Christopher Dresser at the V&A

Blow up Pub

Municipal Mummification

The Matt and Ron Show

Semi - detached

Half Timbered Van

Feltham Future

Favorite Things

Fugitives and Refugees' - Chuck Palahniuk

The Pop Vernacular

Design by Chefs

Just What is it That Makes Yesterdays Homes So Different, So Appealing?

Archigrams Pastoral Futurism

Sorry Mies

The Flaming Lips - Live.

Everything Counts - The Sound of Geography Collapsing.

Carlton Terrace Extension

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