Architecture, School and the mini politics that may transcend

Architecture, apart from the aesthetic and functional elements it has been associated with, has also been long known to be as an establishment of iconism, authoritarianism, Nepotism and even intimidation.

It has long been used as a tool to demarcate political and geographical boundaries, and even as a brand image in many ways than one.

The several century or so old schools in Sri Lanka are a perfect epitome of this same iconism, and all others binding factors. What makes a school boy or girl coming from one of these old schools in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Jaffna or any other major town in Sri Lanka be so loyal to his/her alma mater and all that she stands for is its architecture and elegance apart from many other reasons. The aesthetics and the elegance of the buildings inculcate in them a certain amount of Pride and belonging and sub consciously brainwashes them to be bound by that phenomenon. All school children from these conserved buildings leave the building in sorrow and determination to serve her in every possible way, even if they do not serve at least they intend to do so.

The building and the elegance that oozes from it and the same functional aspects of the building itself is instrumental in moulding the psyche and thought process of the student, and the growth of a child in such a building for 13 or so consecutive years instils in him or her a sense of security and strength that he takes out for long years to come.

All of us have memories of school days and reminisce them with a sense of extremist nostalgia, the mischievous pranks pulled on teachers, the many practical jokes played in the class, the class geek who does nothing but stays in the lab, to the sportsmen who religiously attended sports practices in the college grounds. Apart from other obvious factors, what binds all these in a memory and visually places individuals/friends in our mind which we remember for so long is the very ambience and locality within the school campus in which whatever incident took place. If not for that link which acts as the matrix to hold all these data together, the incidents remembered would only include a few names.
Class favourites, the pranks they pull up, the eccentric teachers and the stern principal are given due credit in the story grandpa relates to his mesmerised audience, and it is rarely understood that all those memories revolve around a place and the elements or signature icons of that particular place, the lab, the principals office or the ground pavilion.

And its is this very same element in the building that creates an umbilical chord that connects the past, present and future generations of that particular school.

If an old prestigious school in Colombo or elsewhere was demolished and a high tech multi million dollar new building was set up to carry on the very same functions of the old building It would do so (in other words, to cut the umbilical chord), but with a lot of different essences attached to it. There may not be the usual pranks, the mischievous laughter, the strict disciplinarians and the friendly school peon, but it would be replaced with Robotic students, teachers with a mechanical mindset, and an environment that philosophizes a whole different set of values. The latter mentioned are not necessarily negative attributes, but rather attributes that are in many ways than one devoid of an element that makes school life so fundamental for the growth of a student.

These factors are usually unnoticed by the larger slice of society, a student from an old building may always be stereo typical of the student from a new (high quality even) establishment, and vice versa. But that is what architecture does, it gives different people a different sense of belonging and loyalty, and a totally unique mindset and eyes to see the world

– Raashid Riza

Raashid is BB-ite and an undergraduate student of Architecture, who allegedly has a very profound vocabulary. He’s currently studying in the UK and occasionally blogs at Navigating on Balance. He previous contributions to this blog includes a post exploring whether Muslims are an ethnic group or an idealogical one.


Posted on 02/16/2008, in Opinions, Sri Lanka, Youth-Culture-Society and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. While agreeing with Riza about the insiders experience in a controlled environment as of the Architecture of Control, I also agree to a degree the comments made by Adamantine. First I would like to say that the word architecture not only connotes the language and expressions that buildings are made of but alSO of any “structured System’ that is logical, organised, designed and in contol of itself in controlling others. So comes architecture of control, architecture of power, architecture of this or that.

    It is true iconic architecture creates senSe of belonging to those who build affinity with but in the context of what Riza express about architecture of school that builds loyalty and nostalgia in the past pupils. This is a loosely true fact but the true loyalty is built by the ambience of learing and the resultant symbiotic relationship created between the pupils and the whole system that is called the school. This is the umbilical chord that ties. This loyalty creates herd instinct and fellowship and the more stronger the symbiotic relationship and thick the umbilical chord this herd instinct and fellowship builds an architecture of power and control out side the boundaries of the school in society or politics or commerce. This architecture of power is evident in how Royalists & Thomians influenced power in Sri Lanka, similarly Anandians, Nalandians, Trinitians etc etc.

    In conclusion I see that there is nothing wrong in Riza’s or Adamantines comment and my comments are just an extension emphasising that school as a system do have an architecture of control through which architecture of Power is created that controls again the school thus making a linear movement in perpetuating power. This is why one school’s motto goes as “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER”

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Sri Lanka: On Architecture

  2. Pingback: Architecture And Everything Except The Helsinki « adamantine

  3. Pingback: Architecture, Religion and Going Green « Beyond Borders Sri Lanka

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