Once renowned author Ernest Dimnet spoke thusly of architecture:
Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.
Is it possible? There certainly seems to be evidence for uses both good and bad. For the latter, one need only consider the reputation of dark mirthless Socialist architecture promulgated from Moscow through Berlin. But perhaps the architecture was not soulless, by any means, even as it bent the souls of those around it. The souls were indeed bent, but never broken. As Sudjic writes:
Architecture is used by political leaders to seduce, to impress and to intimidate.
Of course, we know that Sudjic may not be the best authority on architecture, for he has so consistently overestimated the influence of the top-down relationship between design and culture. [You can judge for yourself by reading it, please avoid the numerous nonsensical but glowing reviews of it on the internet.] For example, his theory largely discounts the spirited campaign of some designers within the Soviet bloc who were able to subvert authority and the galling conformity mandated by the state, as shown in Frederic Chaubin’s work. In the wake of stultifying cultural controls from the politburo, the case that architecture may act on the soul in positively transforming ways is being made as well, for the peoples of the former Soviet bloc have burst forth with frenzied excitement and anticipation for what is to come. They are anxious to see the shapes and forms the soaring human spirit may take. We wait with bated breath, for example, to see the results in Warsaw, where Zaha Hadid’s Lilium Tower (seen right) is going up. The soul is more than mere darkness or light, however, and we have already discussed how it may be transformed. Part of the adventure of living is finding the new frontiers of experience and the soul, and this is where architecture may yet be at its most powerful. It can connect, inform, reflect, augment, lift, and distend– and perhaps it can do a great deal more than that.
What of the mountain monuments? What of the local chapels (see below)?