Sunday, April 18, 2010

Travels: Monuments

Two summers ago I interned in Washington D.C., during which time I made the rounds of the memorials and monuments in the capitol. The WWII memorial was one of the newest additions to the Mall. It was also criticized for the ugly, pompous design, especially in contrast to the understated but affective Vietnam War memorial.

To quote from its wikipedia entry:
A critic from the Boston Herald described the monument as "vainglorious, demanding of attention and full of trite imagery." The Philadelphia Inquirer argued that "this pompous style was also favored by Hitler and Mussolini". 
... And maybe also Stalin...

Two weeks ago I was in Berlin, another city of memorials and monuments. Most of them I found very tasteful and thought-provoking. But there was one that immediately reminded me of the WWII memorial and not in a good way... It's the Soviet War Memorial. It was built in 1945 by the Soviet Union, who occupied part of the city along with the Americans and the British, to commemorate its soldiers.

Both have curved columns with a taller tower in the middle. The Soviet Memorial has a giant soldier on top of the tower. The WWII memorial has a giant bronze eagle in the archway under the tower. The Soviet soldier looks heavy enough to collapse the tower he stands on and the eagle looks like it could never take flight. It's just too much bronze.

Actually the WWII memorial is more bombastic than the Soviet one. It has more pillars because there are two sets of pillars forming curving around a circular fountain. Each pillar represents a state, so they had to make a lot of them...

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