There have been many cases of Western Architecture that have been destroyed in acts of war, natural disasters, or because of structural integrity failure. In this paper, we will look into why some buildings were rebuilt, how they were rebuilt, and why some buildings weren’t built the same. Other topics that may be touched on here will also be temporary buildings that have become permanent and buildings that were built to look as if they were destroyed and worn down.
One of the earlier occurrences of western architecture’s destruction due to war was actually the Parthenon in Greece. During the Great Turkish War, there was an apparent direct hit on a gun powder magazine inside of the Parthenon which resulted in an explosion that caused a collapse of part of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was never rebuilt and there was also no monument built in its place. While we can’t really ever be sure as to why this is the case, we can assume that many factors were at play here. According to the Greek historian, Herodotus, there was a previous Parthenon that was replaced by what we now know as the current Parthenon due to other conquests. In summary, it seems as though the Parthenon has a history of being demolished in conflicts which might make sense, and here’s why. The Parthenon was used as a Treasury for the city of Athens before being converted to a Christian Church. If there were valuables in the Parthenon, which I would imagine a treasury containing, then I could imagine why it would be the target of many conquests. This leads to the other piece of western architecture that was targeted in an act of war based on the functionality of the buildings. In 2001 there was an attack on The World Trade Center. From the 1600s to the 2000s not much has seemed to change. The World Trade Center was used for office spaces and housed about 430 companies on top of also attracting 70,000 tourists and commuters every single day. Because of its obvious financial importance to the United States Economy, it would have been the perfect target for an enemy. In 2001 there was an attack that brought both of the towers to the ground. This resulted in a massive investigation that showed that it was an act of war against the United States. The World Trade Center was rebuilt, but not to look exactly like the towers that were previously there. Many people believe that the change in design was to not entice another attack of similar proportions. After a couple years of hesitation, the Freedom Tower was starting to be built and then renamed for fear of another attack. Now known as One World Trade Center, it is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. This speaks volumes to the power and revitalization of the United States. Many believe that this was done to show that no one can destroy freedom and democracy. Another fun fact of the memorial building was that they added a spire to the One World Trade Center in order to make its total height 1,776 feet tall which was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. This further proves the impossibility of destroying freedom theory. Their neighbors up north have also had their fair share of disrespectful destruction of Western Architecture. Canada created a monument to Brock in 1824. By 1840 it was heavily damaged by a bomb set off in an act of war. Once some time has passed the monument had started to be rebuilt again in 1853. Here you can see some similarities between the Americans in 2001 and the Canadians in the 1840s because they both waited a considerable amount of time to start rebuilding.
Canada’s friends in France have just recently experienced a tragic loss of their Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire that they believe started in the roof. The French legislative body voted to rebuild and start accepting donations to rebuild the cathedral. Since there is such a long history with this cathedral and a huge respect for art and history in France, the cathedral will be attempted to be built as a near replica. This is an interesting contrast between the United States when they decided to replace the World Trade Center with a different design because of its concerns for future attacks. The French thankfully don’t have to make those same decisions because the fire was not deliberate. Comparing and contrasting these buildings and their destructions and restorations gives us an interesting peek into how situations and culture can affect what happens in the history of architecture in the western hemisphere.
Natural disasters have caused some of the most destruction to architecture. Back in New York, the Blenheim Bridge stretched 210 feet. The enormous size, along with the fact that it was build in 1855, is what makes it an interesting piece of architecture to write about in this paper. When there was a flood in 1869, there was a restructuring that was necessary to keep the bridge intact. When the hurricanes of 2011 hit, it caused record flooding for the area which completely obliterated the bridge. As discussed before the United States’ culture from past experience isn’t one of rebuilding replicas. They have a respect for history, but it doesn’t seem as though they care to rebuild it. The case is the same for this bridge in New York. The Blenheim Bridge was mostly recovered, but funnily enough, was not attempted to be rebuilt. This leaves one to wonder that if this bridge was in France, would it have been rebuilt accurately if at all? History and the present tell us that they most definitely would.
In summary, we’ve talked about a couple different time periods and a couple different cultures with their very different situations and discussed how they went about their dilemmas with their architecture. This paper almost honestly wouldn’t feel complete without further digging into one last situation that further could prove the point that how these pieces of architecture were treated definitely had a pattern based on culture and the situation. The Pennsylvania Station in New York City. Although it seemed like many people in the United States wanted to save the original Penn Station, we seem to be a country founded on fiscal responsibility. Because it seemed to be costing more money to keep up than to demolish, it was ultimately demolished and rebuilt. An interesting fact is that one of the developers suggested that a part of the building be used as a World Trade Center, which would have caused a whole other type of destruction if that idea was acted upon. Regardless, the United States ended up demolishing the building to rebuild another more functional, financially responsible, less aesthetically pleasing building.
The point is that this seems to be a trend in the United States, while other countries such as France and the United Kingdom seem to make every attempt to rehabilitate most destroyed buildings. Sure the United States has a lot of still-standing historic buildings, but have many of them had to be rebuilt? No, not really. So with this pattern, the United States should really attempt to hold onto what they have because history seems to say that they won’t be rebuilt if anything happens to them. Works Cited
- “French Government Moves Forward on Notre Dame Restoration Plans.” Crux, 9 July 2019, https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2019/07/08/french-government-moves-forward- on-Notre-dame-restoration-plans/.
- “History of Brock’s Monument.” History of Brock’s Monument, Queenston Heights | The Friends of Fort George, http://www.friendsoffortgeorge.ca/brocks-monument/history/index.html.
- History.com Editors. “9/11: Rebuilding of Ground Zero.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 20 June 2011, https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/911-rebuilding-of- ground-zero.
- “Old Blenheim Bridge.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https:// www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/old-Blenheim-bridge.htm.
- “The Parthenon Is Blown Up.” History Today, https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months- past/Parthenon-blown.
- “World Trade Center History: National September 11 Memorial & Museum.” World Trade Center History | National September 11 Memorial & Museum, https://www.911memorial.org/ learn/resources/world-trade-center-history.