BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Listen to Radio 3 - BBC Radio Player

Free Thinking : The world

From New Delhi, writer Rana Dasgupta

The Architecture Of Impregnability (2)

  • Rana Dasgupta
  • 10 Oct 06, 06:42 PM

I am indebted to Mrinalini Rajagopalan, PhD Candidate, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley, for adding the following to my earlier discussion of American architect Yamasaki.

The architecture of Yamasaki and its unfortunate dance with death has one more crucial piece that you forgot to add in your notes. He was also the well-intentioned (as always) designer of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St. Louis Missouiri, built in the late 50s. A modernist dream dedicated to social engineering, the housing project was to be the bromide that would solve racial segregation, urban poverty, lead to a brave new world...

Two decades later, like so many modernist erections, its failure on all counts was so acute that it was blown up in its entirety. The image of the towers being demolished has been iconic—-shown to every wide-eyed, eager architecture student in the 80s and 90s equating the moment of Pruitt-Igoe’s destruction with the true end of modernism as a phase in architecture.

The interesting post-narrative here is that that Mohammed Atta—the terrorist who flew one of the planes into the WTC—had trained as an architect before embarking on his short-lived career as pilot-terrorist. And it may not be too much of a stretch to imagine that he had some knowledge of Yamaski’s work and its suicidal tendencies.

So the question really becomes what kind of politics is embedded in our international style of architectural terrorism?


  1. At 08:27 AM on 12 Oct 2006, fitz wrote:

    Architects are no more able to determine and then suggest and then design what people really need as comfortable living conditions, than can politicians, philosophers, scientists, priests, bricklayers etc etc.

    If you look at the design of say stone-age hill forts or forest communities, the whole community were involved in the design of their village and home and were I assume reasonably satisfied. They had architects, but they probably all were architects.

    The design of living areas today is not decided by people's needs as much as the needs of economies and what some far off politician thinks should be; aided and abetted by shackled architects.

    We all desire privacy to some extent in our living conditions, but there is also a vast difference between east and west. Privacy is a prized possession in the west. Collective living is more prized in the east, this then affects the design of living quarters.

    The more buildings are created futher away from the needs of those who use them, the more they will eventually be destroyed by peaceful or war like means.

    Life was meant to be simple - let's keep it that way!

    Post a complaint

    Please note Name and E-mail are required.

    Contact details
  2. At 05:09 AM on 14 Oct 2006, fitz wrote:

    I don't think architecture is the flavour of the month this month!

    I think people prefer to talk about themselves and others rather than buildings.

    Post a complaint

    Please note Name and E-mail are required.

    Contact details

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy