Radical Centres: The Political Morphology of Monumentality in Warsaw and Johannesburg
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This text compares and contrasts two monumental architectural ensembles: Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown, Johannesburg, opened in 2005 by President Thabo Mbeki; and The Palace of Culture and Science, a Stalinist skyscraper ‘gifted’ to Warsaw by the Soviet Union in 1955. This architectural juxtaposition serves as the point of departure for the text’s two, interconnected key themes: an inquiry into the complex continuities and contradictions between the political and economic reconfigurations experienced by South Africa after 1994 and Poland after 1989; and an exploration into what the author defines as the ‘political morphology’ of monumental architecture. The bulk of the text is concerned with a critical investigation into how scholars conceive of the relationship between the morphological (spatial, geometric and aesthetic) characteristics of built form, and their political or economic correlates. Must there be – as the scholarly consensus suggests – an intrinsic connection between democracy and architectural humility, and between authoritarianism and monumentality?