Monday, October 08, 2007

Why build a tower when you can build an arch

I was watching Michael Palin's New Europe on Saturday and noticed that Bucharest in Romania, as well as having the world's heaviest building, has a Marble arch type structure. Which got me thinking... Paris... London... Bucharest - these arches are everywhere!

Pyongyang - Arch of Triumph
Originally uploaded by p!ng.
After a bit of research, it turns out they really are. Wikipedia lists probably over 100 examples. The tradition began in ancient Rome to commemorate success in battle. The tradition was then resurrected - like so many other Roman traditions - during the renaissance. The largest in the world is in Pyongyang. Perhaps surprising they've saught to emulate such a western tradition, but they give the design an interesting Oriental flavour.

I wonder if any arches were ever built pre-emptively, so as to give the soldiers the opprtunity to march through it on their way back into the capital (that surely is the motivation - in thought if not in deed - behind building a symbolic or ceremonial march). Do soldiers who won the war the arch commemorates make a point of visiting it once in their lives to march through it with honour?

London has two such arches. Marble arch, obviously (which is also where the A5 - heading all the way up to North Wales - begins as Edgeware road), but also the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park. No others anywhere else in the UK.

To change the subject, i was going to blog about the recent Barclaycard/Oyster adverts, which feature reinventions of the London skyline, but Londonist beat me to it. The Battersea power station one in particular is pretty clever.


James said...

Rhys, I saw this myself (you'll find a picture of it on skyscrapernews). From what I understood the only reason the DPRK built it was so it would be slightly larger than any other thus proving the triumph of the Juchean ideal over western capitalism. This is also why the Juche Memorial was tall than the Washington Monument. There was very little architecture in the capital that was Korean. Communists are in love with modernism. Architecture shows the eternal success of the glorious revolution...

Rhysickle said...

A duplicate Washington monument too!

Wouldn't surprise me if they also have a seated statue of Kim Il-sung wearing a top hat and chinstrap beard.

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