Saturday, April 23, 2005

Civilization and its Contents - II

Back to bricks and mortar. I forgot that when I was in Milan many years ago I came across a mausoleum that had been constructed during Mussolini's time. It was really rather frightening. It was, of course, in the neo imperial style with very dark, metal eagles, guns and helmets sprouting all about. One descended into the mausoleum and I don't remember who was buried there. It was pretty scary. This brings to mind the architecture of Napoleon and Hitler. Napoleon was going to completely redo Paris. I am not sure what he did construct, it isn't his tomb in Les Invalides which was an old soldier's home constructed by Louis XIV:
In 1670, Louis XIV - the Sun King - founded Les Invalides near what was then called the Grenelle Plain. An old soldiers home, it was funded by a five year levy on the salaries of soldiers currently serving in the army at that time. The first stones were laid in 1671, for what was to become a complex providing quarters for 4,000. Construction followed plans drawn up by Libéral Bruant, and was completed in 1676. The Esplandade was layed out by Robert de Cotte.
Of course, I guess we have to include the Arc de Triompe:
The Triumphal Arch dates back to 1806, when Napoléon commissioned Chalgrin to build an arch to the glory of the French Army. Construction on the Arch began in 1806, restarted in 1825, and was not finished until 1836. The Arc de Triomphe is built on the model of ancient Triumphal Arches, but it stands alone because of its monumental size: 50 meters tall and 45 meters wide (164 by 148 feet).
But then:
it was completed in time for Napoleon's hearse to pass beneath in 1840.
In other words, Napoleon got a good view on his last journey. We should be so lucky.

It is something to ponder, this lack of grandiose architecture in the United States. Here we are a country with wealth beyond imagining, and we can't seem to build anything but starter castles. Oh, yes, there is the new Disney Auditorium in Los Angeles and the renovated Museum of Modern Art in New York. But these would be paltry memorials to the wealth that we have. Or do we? and they would crumble in a decent earthquake. Or, probably more likely go submarine.

As for Hitler's monumental architecture, we have this:


forthil said...

Nice point. I am no expert on architecture, or I'd probably be able to name one or two worthy monuments in the US, but your comments ring true to me. Says something about our culture. Maybe we should have a shrine to big screen TV's, or the NFL, but then again, taxpayer funded stadiums, like those in Maryland, ARE monuments to these American icons.

Your erudite comments lately are impressive. I'm not crazy about your bashing the Prez, but even though I'm a right winger, I have to admit he is an easy target. Plus, in fairness, I made plently of disparaging comments during the Clinton years, though I have to admire Bill's (and Hillary's) excellent minds and their savvy play in the political game.

Dr. C said...

Thanks forthil. Wander over to Liberal Avenger sometime if you want a good forum for discussion.