For decades, authoritarian regimes have waged war on modern architecture and the philosophy it embodies. A new ad proves it’s still a target.
If you came across a video featuring Frank Gehry‘s frenetic Disney Concert Hall, Renzo Piano’s towering New York Times building, John Portman‘s postmodern Westin Bonaventure Hotel, the Art Deco Los Angeles Timesbuilding, and Anish Kapoor‘s reflective Bean sculpture, you’d probably assume you were watching a survey of some of the past century’s most memorable modern architectural landmarks.
Unfortunately, all of these buildings are featured in a video far more sinister, as first noted by Citylab‘s Kriston Capps and discussed by design critics across the internet: the National Rifle Association’s latest propaganda ad. Images of these works, along with street scenes in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles–stereotypical bastions of liberal elites–cycle through the video as NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch snarls: “And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream ‘racism, and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia.'” It is an “open call to violence to protect white supremacy,” as Deray Mckesson put it; some NRA members have condemned the ad according to The Washington Post.
But what’s less clear is why these modern buildings are featured. Architecture has a long history of functioning as a symbol of power–but how, historically, did modernism became a political target? It’s complicated.
The NRA is clear with its intentions for invoking them in its video: cities, and the modern buildings populating them, are the enemy.
What’s troubling about the ad, beyond its violent message, is how it turns public spaces and publicly accessible buildings into targets. At the end, Loesch addresses her audience–presumably, NRA members who are likely agitated after watching her incendiary tirade–saying, “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country of freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”
In the NRA’s video, “this” isn’t just a thinly-veiled stand-in for liberalism. “This” is a series of physical spaces where the “clenched fist of truth” can be directed. We should all be worried.