Greek revival democracy

Perhaps a reader is familiar with this photograph that so resonates within our hearts. It is from the "home" section of the website of architect Tim Andersen.

Perhaps a reader can identify this photograph that so resonates within our hearts. It is from the “About us” section of the website of architect Tim Andersen.

Architect Tim Andersen sends an essay, “Next Greek Revival: The Republic Could Rise Again,” that reminds us on this Election Day of the entwining tenets of architecture and democracy. Architecture creates the stage for democracy. Democracy creates a people wise enough to embrace and maintain civilization. Or one would like to think.

“How inspiring it would be today,” writes Andersen, “to see a new Greek Revival meeting house, library or school. … It would be a daily reminder for citizens to rise up and take responsibility for their government.”

Here’s more: “Media scholar Ben Bagdikian observed that ‘fundamental deception damages the public’s ability to maintain a rational view of the world. Once a basic untruth is rooted, it blurs a society’s perception of reality and, consequently, the intelligence with which it reacts to events.”

Andersen’s essay eventually moves from architecture to politics. His slant is, you might say, nonpartisan, but not the vague “middle-of-the-road” milksop politics so popular with many today who fear the need to choose. Toward the end of his essay, Anderson returns to architecture as a reflection of the essential civility of a functioning democracy. “Architecture,” he writes, “mirrors society and represents its aspirations. Historic building traditions embody a society’s long-held meanings and beliefs. Culture in this sense is literally constructed.”

The emphasis on that last word is mine. I see a critique of modern architecture implicit in  Tim Andersen’s essay, embedded in its critique of modern American society. Without really being mentioned, it nevertheless percolates quietly throughout. The essay is a clarion call that merits reading on this of all days.


About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, 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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3 Responses to Greek revival democracy

  1. Tim Andersen says:

    This is construction site of Reichstag in Berlin, 1890. The building was burned in 1933 and heavily damaged during WWII. Amazingly, the stone pediment, capitals and columns have been restored. What these guys were sculpting in c.1890 photo survives today.


  2. This was not my own photo, and I do not know its source, though I believe it is actually from France, not America. It remains resonant of many fine lines of thought. I have seen and used other such photos but I’m afraid they are scattered about and I cannot retrieve them without a lot of work I have no time to do. You – like me – will just have to enjoy the great photos we see along the way, and if you are more organized than I am, put them in a special folder. Good luck!


  3. Catherine says:

    This is such a spectacular photo, perhaps typical of another time and never seen in ours, except for St John the Divine or La Sagrada Familia. Got any more?


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