Historian Herbert Read said that “all dictatorships have a bloody Doric column behind them.” The predilection of the powerful for classicism is not new. Franco wanted classical architecture in the Valley of the Fallen, in La Laboral, in the “Monasterio del Aire”. Musolini too (although Terragni sneaked it in). Modern architecture was despised by Hitler, who wanted a classic Berlin with the great Speer dome. Stalin said that the people also have the right to columns.
The nobility has always been linked to this type of architecture. And much more in England, hence its recent and insolent diffusion towards the US Carlos de Inglaterra chairs an association on the built landscape whose proposals are collected in his book “A vision of Great Britain: a personal vision of architecture” (1989 ). The book has quite a few sensible proposals, such as respect for the landscape, adequate scale, surrounding materials, harmony or prominence of the pedestrian … The problem is that His Highness supports anachronistic architects and promotes or encourages many decisions against modern architecture. Thus, of the winning project for the expansion of the National Gallery in London, he said that it was “a monstrous boil on the face of a very loved and elegant friend.” His opposition to the reissue of a skyscraper that Mies van der Rohe designed for London was clear and it was not made. And he compared the National Theater on the Bankside in Lasdun to “a nuclear power station in central London that no one had objected to.”
There is a bond of affection between classicism and society. The first approach to architectural history is, for many, Rome and Greece. Art syllabi are often finished before reaching the 20th century. The greatest diffusers of classicism are the classical buildings themselves, which we see in our cities showing us their symmetry, their orders, their pediments and metopes, which satisfy everyone’s hunger for history. On the other hand, literature rejoices in the classical villas, in Rome and in Italy … From Shakespeare to the novels of Jane Austen, which have in their pages great manor houses in the countryside. And the influence of cinema and, later, television was absolutely decisive in this regard. Series like “Downtown Abbey”, “Upstairs & downstairs” or “Return to Brideshead” and films like “Gosford Park”.
American cinema caused no less impact, with films like “Ben Hur” or “Quo Vadis” … A Hearst obsessed with acquiring classic antiques was the inspiration for Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”. Tony Montana, in “The Price of Power,” builds a classic house when he has money. And even supposedly avant-garde films, like all the work of Peter Greenaway, have contributed to this diffusion of the classic
In Spain in 1944, when all the historical avant-gardes were planned and well planned, Chueca and Sidro won the project to build the Almudena Cathedral, a neoclassical building consecrated in 1993 … come on, the day before yesterday. And the former Madrid president Esperanza Aguirre, Countess consort and great of Spain, was surprised and recorded saying that “all the architects would have to be killed” in front of a new city hall building of contemporary architecture.
If it is not possible to transmit to society the importance of both the heritage already built and the obligation, today, to be contemporary, there will be no weapon to stop its contempt and destruction. And Trump helps little, of course, as in almost everything.