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.

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