Monument as the First Symbol

written by Antonio Grgić

Photo by: Raphaël Thiémard


With the fall of the Berlin Wall we were told that the end of history and the great narratives are upon us; that the collapse of the wall resulted in the collapse of a political utopia, and that we had entered the post-utopian and post-ideological era. So, after the year of 1989, we were unwittingly living for more than ten years in the last great utopia, in the utopia of global capitalist and liberal democracy, unaware that we were once again caught in the ideological machine producing final truths.1 With the announcement of the end of history and the post ideological era in 1989, the era of architecture in service of global capitalist utopia began. Architecture became a part of the marketing mix aiming at product branding on the global market. The most famous example is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao by Frank Gehry. Architecture transformed from a modernist living machine into a postmodern marketing and branding machine. A new term entered the marketing jargon, the so-called Bilbao effect that turns architecture into a cog of marketing and branding strategy, an empty advertising rhetoric. The peak and the debacle of this new post-utopian architecture is represented in the Louis Vuitton Foundation corporate shrine in the Forest of Boulogne in Paris, the work of the same author.2 Architecture’s symbolic aspect was replaced with its marketing utilitarianism in the service of the never declared last great utopia. But the symbolic dimension of architecture returned with the fall of the last utopia in 2001, marked by the destruction of the Twins. It returned alongside history that did not come to its end, and the ideology that was more alive than ever. The New York iconoclasm committed by passenger airliners brought back the symbolic architecture with a bang. The biggest of them all; our TV screens.