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Architectural propaganda

Architectural propaganda is the use of architecture, intentionally or unintentionally, to communicate an attitude or idea in a persuasive manner, often for an explicitly propagandic purpose. The use of architecture for propaganda purposes in order to influence attitudes, opinions, and feelings of the target audience can be found in many cultures across history. Since architecture itself is an expression of culture, the propaganda element of architecture can organically flow from the structure by nature of its being.

The fact that something may be used for propaganda is not a values statement about the thing itself. It is a simple truism that people are influenced by things around them and therefore, when those things around include architecture, people will be influenced by it as a part of an environment. This inherent quality of architecture then can be used by those with the desire to do so. This use is what transforms the architecture from a simple influence into a piece of propaganda.

The psychological dimension of architecture and propaganda means that even when a group or government has no direct intent to use architecture for propaganda purposes, the nature of architecture proceeding as it does from the human mind will express something about the designer and his or her culture. The architecture itself becomes an expression of the larger opinions of a cultural or social group which may then be impressed upon others. By virtue of observation of an architectural work, an individual may come to understand something about the original builder and his or her culture. Thus, even with no prior intent, architecture by its very nature has a built-in propaganda value.

Richard Swett, the former Congressman from New Hampshire and US ambassador to Denmark, an architect by training proposed that architecture need not be limited simply to buildings and grand constructions, but rather that architectural design and design considerations should permeate every aspect of life. He proposed that since everything utilized and created is designed at some level, it is possible and indeed necessary to include a great deal of thought and effort in the design of everything from buildings to desk lamps, to silverware. Swett proposed that “examples of integrated artistic, social and environmental harmony created by architects who have served both their calling and the needs of society” are the ideal to be striven for in architectural design. He says that in Denmark, “all aspects of the design of a civilized life’s accouterments, from the shelter we need to the implements for feeding ourselves, are treated with the same high standards of design integrity and respect,” and proposes that American architecture and architects ought to follow a similar course. "In one of its articles in 1953, the Architectural Forum recognised US’s export architecture as a diplomatic tool, appreciating it and presenting US as a state exercising political world leadership and cultural leadership with the latter being driven especially by the US‘s architecture."



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