How do monuments augment a country’s national identity?

If this is a topic of interest, I highly recommend Lawrence Vale’s article “Mediated Monuments & National Identity.”  Here’s the abstract I wrote of this article with full citation at the bottom in case you want to look it up. It even mentions the Petronas Twin Towers from my country of residence!

Lawrence J. Vale in this article “explores the relationship between politically  charged  architectural  monuments  and  the media  campaigns  constructed  to  control  (or subvert)  their  interpretation.”  For millenniums conquering regimes and newly established governments have sought to stamp their legitimacy onto the landscape by designing architectural wonders which display their economic prowess or their national identity. Vale asserts that all modern governments use architecture intertwined with media campaigns to demonstrate their power.  Vale shows how the communist Chinese ‘conquered’ Tiananmen Square by opening the former Emperor’s Forbidden City and hanging the large portrait of communist icon Mao Zedong on its wall.  The Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia were built as the world’s tallest to show the nation’s economic progress as well as the supremacy of Malaysian’s indigenous Muslim majority.  Vale shows how Saddam Hussein built towers which were exalted by the media as being superior to their counterparts built by their former colonial master the British.  Also, Saddam sought to show a connection to the past Babylonian empire by reconstructing public work projects on the ancient Babylonian site which sought to link the proud modern leader with that of Iraq’s ancient heritage.  Vale’s Marxist approach does not focus on the formal analysis of the designs but seeks to show their importance to their respective countries. Vale in his analysis seeks to show how countries do not so much imbed meaning into the architectural design of these buildings but that the media is used to convey and reinforce the government’s intended purposes for these buildings.  Everything about the Kremlin’s makeover into the symbol of Soviet Russia and about Zimbabwe’s attachment to their great archaeological site which named their country points to the government showing their moral authority, their legitimacy and their national identity.  Vale does a commendable job in showing how media influences the perception of a country through its national architecture.

Vale, Lawrence J. “Mediated monuments and national identity.” Journal of Architecture 4.4

(Winter 1999): 391-408.

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