Beethoven’s architecture


Beethoven’s birthday was yesterday. He would have been 245 years old. Today is the anniversary of his baptism, the day after his birth.

A vagueness of timing, however, did not fit into the architecture of his music. Goethe called architecture frozen music. The illustration atop this post is cute but does not rise to the level of the “Ode to Joy.” A great work of music achieves a crescendo. A great work of architecture achieves a crescendo. A great work of city building piles crescendo on crescendo, as Beethoven did in bringing his Ninth Symphony to a rousing conclusion. Whenever I hear that fourth movement I feel that it will never end.

Ancient Rome was not built in a day, but it was designed to grant its citizens an epiphany around every corner – the view, it is said, would grow ever more majestic as Romans approached the summit of the Eternal City’s civic center, Capitoline Hill. Symphonic is the proper word.

Anyway, this is my riff on architecture as frozen music in honor of the birthday of Beethoven, which I have missed by a day. To celebrate I offer a video of the master’s “Ode to Joy” – a flashmob just outside of Barcelona.

I have also added a video of Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They play the Fourth Movement only. It is half an hour of sheer beauty, perfection. A commenter writes, “How can the orchestra play so well when the conductor is so vague?” … Hey, I resemble that remark! (Or so I like to think.)

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.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Art and design, Books and Culture, Urbanism and planning, Video and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Beethoven’s architecture

  1. Robert Steuteville says:

    That’s a great video. According to Wikipedia, Beethoven was baptized 245 years ago today. It doesn’t provide a birthdate. He died in 1827.


  2. I recently watched that Flash Mob video again…a favorite! The smiles and wonder on everyone’s faces speak to the spirit of the music.


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