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Title: Contested discourses : national identity and architecture
Author: Jones, Paul R.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2003
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Architecture has historically been an important part of a cultural repertoire used by states to construct the nation code. In modernity authoritative state definitions of the nation were possible due to the clearly demarcated cultural boundaries that existed between states, and although states seldom had total control over the nation code they were for the most part able to construct dominant, cultural symbols of the nation. In this age of nation-building distinct national styles of architecture, which emerged through the modification of universal styles to particular contexts, provided a significant space for nation codification. Victorian Britain provides a clear illustration of these general trends. At this time many prominent British architects accepted state commissions to design public buildings in a quintessentially British style. Styles reliant on historical reference such as Gothic and neo- Classical were used by the British state to legitimate their imperialistic, colonial aims. In the twentieth century the emergence of the modem code of architecture, with its more universalised aesthetic, challenged boundaries between national styles. However, many states did attempt to modify this style, as modernism's progressive logic and utopian ideals were ideas with which governments wanted to align 'their' nations. The cultural boundaries of the state have become more porous due to processes associated with globalization. In most European societies the nation is increasingly a fragmented, diverse concept, and the relatively stable relationship between nation and state in modernity has frequently become unstable under globalized conditions. Post-national identities that pay little heed to geographical and political boundaries have emerged, with new forms of citizenship association threatening the ability of the state to provide the stable national identities that were to a large extent possible in modernity. This dissertation argues that the ambiguous relationship between the nation, the state and post-national identities fmds a tangible form in some contemporary state-led architecture projects. The Millennium Dome, the Jewish Museum, and the Reichstag all express many of the tensions inherent in contemporary state-led architectural projects. The dominant discourses around these buildings are of transparency, openness, and democracy, reflecting themes in contemporary European politics. As the wider political and cultural discourses in which buildings are situated can often shape their interpretation, the architects responsible for these buildings have attempted to control the symbolic meanings attached to their work as far as is possible. States still have a continued interest in architecture that expresses national identities, but vitally not with the same degree of mastery they once had. In short architecture is a discursive medium, and as such harbours the potential to codify collective identities. The state-led architectural projects assessed here reflect some of the dominant discourses in the construction of post-national identities. Resultantly these buildings have also provided a focus for contestation about contemporary identity projects. The dissertation makes two significant contributions to existing knowledge: firstly by bridging the gap that currently exists between sociology and architectural theory and secondly by developing this framework with reference to three specific illustrative examples in contemporary European architecture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available