The destruction of Mecca


By Michela Buttignol (NYT)

Kudos to Erik Bootsma for posting this New York Times oped to the TradArch list. Written by Ziauddin Sardar, The Destruction of Mecca describes the transformation of Mecca, of all places, into a modernist hellhole – led not by Western capitalists or even their modernist handmaidens but by the Saudi royal family and its leading clerics. What is described in the piece far outstripped my understanding of how Mecca was changing. Recall (as Sardar apparently has not) that Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers of 9/11, is said to have been motivated in part by his hatred for modern architecture. Hitler hated modernism, too, and thought it acceptable as a style only for factories. This should remind us that who loves or hates something has little bearing on whether it is good or bad. Founding modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe tried unsuccessfully, even with the assistance of Goebbels, to get Hitler to accept modern architecture as the design template for the Third Reich. That says a lot more about Mies and his concept of modernism than it says about Hitler. And maybe it leads us to wonder what 9/11 was really all about.

The question raised by this piece, after all is unsaid and undone, is why the supposedly fundamentalist Islamist Atta rammed his plane into New York City and not Mecca.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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1 Response to The destruction of Mecca

  1. Anonymous says:

    A fascinating article, about two things that I, and probably many, are conflicted about – islam and modernism. So interesting that Atta was a city planner, like me, and evidently a traditionalist, like me and many of us. Ironic that the saudis and their salafist partners, who are so stuck in deep history regarding islam but in fealty to modernism. I wonder how that happens. Of course, for most of us who are not muslim, would not be permitted to see mecca. It makes me care about its destiny just a little bit less.


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