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Architecture and Its Secret Vibes of Truth and Value

Architecture and Its Secret Vibes of Truth and Value

I recently splurged and visited Mackinac Island with a few friends. The island, located between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan, is perhaps best known for its automobile ban, relegating all traffic to foot, horse, or bike.

Perhaps because of this ban, Mackinac Island functions as a type of time capsule, with beautiful homes, shops, churches, and hotels that make it feel like you’re walking through the Victorian or Edwardian American villages of yesteryear—I always liken it to living in one of Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables movies. In essence, the architecture is thrilling and uplifting, and makes one feel as if all is not yet lost in the land of the free.

I thought of this after seeing a clip from a Russell Brand interview with Tucker Carlson. The two discussed many topics, but one they briefly touched on was architecture, particularly the change we see in architecture today and the effect that has on individuals.

Today’s architecture, Carlson suggested, is one that “clearly hates people, that is designed to oppress the human spirit and make people feel without value, worthless.”

Brand chimed in, suggesting that “municipal and state buildings were once plainly an expression of a contract between the people and their government of a good faith relationship.” In other words, the beautifully soaring city halls and capitol buildings scattered across the country from a bygone era exhibited a mutual respect for government and governed, as well as the principles and values for which each stood.

By contrast, many of the bland, bleak buildings housing today’s bureaucratic agencies look like Velveeta Cheese boxes—sans the bright, happy, yellow color. Such dismal architecture emanates a depressed, downtrodden people, ready to do whatever their masters tell them.

This relationship between architecture and the feelings or respect it signals for its people is not just a current flight of imagination, either. In fact, author G. K. Chesterton suggested in his book Tremendous Trifles that architecture demonstrates the true makeup of a society.

Architecture is a very good test of the true strength of a society, for the most valuable things in a human state are the irrevocable things—marriage, for instance. And architecture approaches nearer than any other art to being irrevocable, because it is so difficult to get rid of. You can turn a picture with its face to the wall; it would be a nuisance to turn that Roman cathedral with its face to the wall. You can tear a poem to pieces; it is only in moments of very sincere emotion that you tear a town-hall to pieces.

Chesterton goes on to write:

A building is akin to dogma; it is insolent, like a dogma. Whether or no it is permanent, it claims permanence like a dogma. People ask why we have no typical architecture of the modern world, like impressionism in painting. Surely it is obviously because we have not enough dogmas; we cannot bear to see anything in the sky that is solid and enduring, anything in the sky that does not change like the clouds of the sky.

Given that feelings, emotionalism, and relativism—”your truth” or “my truth”—rule the day rather than fact and objective truth, then perhaps it’s not difficult to see “why we can’t have nice things” any more when it comes to much of today’s architecture. When our principles fail and our beliefs falter, our externals—both in our dress, our architecture, and other things—become just as fluid, standing for nothing except confusion and despair.

That’s why I’ll take places like Mackinac Island—or even just simple, old homes and buildings that have touches of character—any day. Their beauty and intricacies stand for worth and value, for truth and beliefs that we can’t allow ourselves to forget.

Church on Mackinac Island

One of the many churches that dot Mackinac Island. Copyright: Annie Holmquist

Image credits: Annie Holmquist

This article is republished with permission from Annie’s Attic.

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  • Avatar
    Hugh E. Brennan
    July 12, 2023, 6:33 pm

    New York's iconic skyline has been ruined by some very bad architecture. Glass boxes with weirdly tilted profiles suggesting imminent collapse. Soulless spires over-reaching the Empire State Building's classic symmetry built for perennially absent billionaires, and public buildings that look as though Albert Speer was the chief designer. It's heartbreaking to see old New York's unique charm surrendered to twisted glass boxes that look like they could be anyplace- Shanghai, Lagos, or even, shudder, Houston- they're even putting colored lights on them!

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  • Avatar
    Roberto Gallo
    July 13, 2023, 12:15 pm

    The situations described is far worse in Europe. US was borne during three centuries and the architects, from the North to the South, from West to east are the same or belong to the same cultural string. In Europe, after several centuries of beatiful architecture we have been beleaguered by an insolent and arrogant crew of far left foremans dubbed as architects.
    With the wallets of the people and politics of far left Europe has been destroyed and more will be in the next years thanks to the 15 minutes Cities dogma that will produce little and well controlled outskirts. A doomed future is coming. I may add that the richest people did race for giving towns their imprinting, with patronage of the arts; now they do focus on BLM, LGBTQI…..and other bullshits.

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  • Avatar
    Bruce Metzger
    July 13, 2023, 12:45 pm

    Mackinac Island, no doubt, has every material need, trucked into their locations. The Island is an allusion within a reality.

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