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How Buildings Remember

“Did you see the gas vans?” Claude Lanzmann asks Mrs. Michelsohn, an old German woman, in his film Shoah. Mrs. Michelsohn lived in Chelmno, 50 yards from the spot where Jews were loaded onto the vans at the Nazi extermination center. “No,” she answers at first, with a look of annoyance. Then her face registers the recognition that Lanzmann and his movie cameras will not be deflected. “Yes,” she acknowledges, she saw the vans, “from the outside. They shuttled back and forth. I never looked inside; I didn’t see the Jews in them. I only saw things from the outside.”

She would rather talk of other things she saw from the inside: how primitive the living conditions were in Chelmno during the war; how there were no toilets, only privies; how her “pioneering spirit” sustained her. She never saw inside the vans, this pioneer, but she knew what went on there. From the outside, she heard the screams. “Horrifying screams. Screams of terror! Because they knew what was happening to them.”

Lanzmann asks, “Do you know how many Jews were exterminated there?”

“Four something. Four hundred thousand, forty thousand.”

“Four hundred thousand.”

“Four hundred thousand, yes. I knew it had a four in it. Sad, sad, sad!”

It’s chilling to watch the mechanisms of denial still at work forty years later, to listen to a person speak of her experience with a mind still divided between what she saw and what she knew. For those with a knowledge of Modern architecture, there’s an added shock of recognition in this woman’s words. Asked to recall a catastrophic event in history, she inadvertently exposes the nerve of an issue that aroused a generation of architects to revolutionize their art.

When we walk down the street of any large city in the world today and gaze up at the tall glass office towers that are still a virtual emblem of Modern architecture, we are looking at an architecture that began in a movement to erase the barriers between what we know and what we see. We are looking at a building designed to reveal the truth of the modern world to those who lived in it, a movement to dismantle the sham historical facades that screened the facts of industrial culture behind the elaborate pageantry of the nineteenth-century styles.

It was this German architecture that first framed the formal program in which this ambition was attempted. In the years between the wars, the members of the German Glass Chain championed the use of glass not just for its aesthetic properties but, even more significantly, for its potential as a tool for adjusting social psychology to the facts of modern life. Like Freud, Modern architects sought to improve mental hygiene by eliminating illusions. Masonry buildings connoted concealment, darkness, complacency and disease, withdrawal, from the real world. The substitution of transparent glass walls for opaque materials of brick and stone would wrench the world from its desire for coziness, for a retreat from reality into a fictitious past.

The glass towers in today’s cities show how imperfectly this ambition was realized. We long ago learned to read these buildings as symbols of fantasy, privilege, and corporate power; and often, as with projects such as the Renaissance Center in Detroit, they are symbols of an escapism from urban reality scarcely less fantastic than the nineteenth century’s retreat into period costume.

But the utopian aspirations of the Modern glass tower were subverted long before the corporate headquarters began their rigid march up Park Avenue. The Columbus Haus, a Berlin skyscraper designed by Erich Mendelsohn in 1929, was among the first buildings to translate the modern dream into built form. Completed in 1932, the building was named by its developers after Columbus to emphasize that the building was a harbinger of the modernity associated with the New World. The Nazis had other plans. In February 1933, a month after Hitler became chancellor, the SS leased the new building’s top six floors. Pleased with the open floor plan and the functional efficiency (service elevators were concealed at the rear of the building), the SS designed the space for use as a place to detain and interrogate political prisoners. By the following month, this glass flower of Weimar culture had become, in effect, a high rise concentration camp. In 1919, Paul Scheerbart, the leading theorist of glass architecture had written that “a person who daily sets his eyes on the splendors of glass cannot do wicked deeds” But for three years, until the space proved too small, the SS operated its torture chamber in complete secrecy behind Mendelsohn’s crisp glass façade.

What is most disturbing about Columbus Haus, however, is not the stark contrast between the idealism embodied by the building and the brutality exercised by its tenants. It is, rather, the ideological echoes between the Modern and the Nazi programs of social reform: the violent wrenching of society from old habits to construct a new social order; the flattening of privacy and individual difference beneath structures emphasizing mass, scale, and standardization. Above all, perhaps, they shared a mania for purity and purging elements unconducive to the new dispensation. “Hurray for the transparent, the clear! Hurray for purity!” wrote Bruno Taut in 1919. “Death to everything stuffy!”

Too much can be made of the parallels between the Moderns and the Nazis. The two movements envisioned different ends and proposed different means to reach them. Taut’s call for death was directed at ideas, not human beings; to him, the vision of “everlasting architecture” called forth a “kingdom without force,” not a thousand year Reich built on genocide. Modern architects were the victims of Hitler, rarely his willing collaborators. Mendelsohn, a Jew, left Germany the day after Hitler attained power, and he never returned.

Still, to look back at a building like Columbus Haus is to risk a loss of faith in the privileged status that surrounds artistic ideas, the status that declares one form of purity to be symbolic and another form of purity to be all too real. It is to see that the difference between artistic ideology and political propaganda does not preclude disturbing overlaps between them; that architecture is not just the making of places where historical events transpire but an activity bound up tightly in form and meaning with those events.

If we think of glass in connection with the Holocaust, the image most likely to arise is the shattered glass of smashed shop windows sparkling in German streets. Like Columbus Prison, the memory of Crystal Night also mocks belief that exposing the darker recesses of life can (in Scheerbart’s words) “raise our culture to a higher level.” For here was an event that did not take place behind opaque walls. Here was an eruption of brutality whose visibility to the entire world did nothing to weaken the world’s determination to deny the evidence of its senses.

Now, fifty years after Crystal Night, we have a flourishing type of architecture nurtured by the belief that visibility can defeat denial. Holocaust museums are not only monuments to an event in history, to the idea of Santayana, inscribed on the wall at the exit of the museum at Dachau, that those who will not learn from it are condemned to repeat it. Holocaust museums are shrines to the therapeutic properties of memory, as cure and as prevention. They embody the hope that making the past a visible part of the present will help it to keep it in the past, to prevent it from reaching out of its burial ground to clutch the future.

Holocaust museums also affirm a belief in the power of architecture to make ideas visible. Books, paintings, sculptures, films, television shows, photographs, and even musical compositions have kept the Holocaust before the eyes of the world. But Holocaust museums are grounded in the belief that buildings can establish that visibility on a permanent basis, as though their size, their placement in the context of daily life, and their capacity to house as well as to depict events give them a claim to reality and to its meaning--beyond that exercised by other works of art.

These claims--to permanence, to reality, to objective truth--account for some of the discomfort aroused in people’s minds by the Holocaust museums. There are many who do not question the importance of learning from history--people whose shelves frown beneath the weight of books on the Holocaust; who are profoundly moved by a film like Shoah or by Anselm Kiefer’s paintings--who are quicker to see the problems than the benefits of a building dedicated to recalling the nightmare. They complain that Holocaust museums have become a kind of industry that exists to produce replicas almost as mechanically as fast-food franchises; that they seem to serve the social ambitions of rich Jews more faithfully than the cause of a historical understanding; that they undermine the impartiality of history by linking the Holocaust to the politics of Israel (even that they undermine political support for Israel by providing a sop); that they present to the world a view of Jewish culture dominated by the theme of victimization.

Underlying these objections is the assumption that architecture must be held to a higher standard of morality because it is a less personal form of art than music, painting, even a miniseries. The implication is that a building about the Holocaust is the reflection not of individual desires but of history’s impartial judgment that such a building deserves a prominent place in the fabric of public life. As such, what may be most unsettling about a Holocaust museum is the proximity of this conventional view of architecture to the fascist conception of art: that it is the business of art to represent a collective view of the world.

On the one hand, there is a lot of rhetoric framed with the intention of placing Holocaust museums above criticism. On the other hand, a lot of rhetoric is aimed at persuading us that the Holocaust should be placed above the reach of art. And both these ideas, that the Holocaust museum must be above criticism and that the Holocaust is above art, reflect a third idea, that the Holocaust is more a matter of religion than of history, not the religion of Judaism but the religion of itself. Of course, the Holocaust has filled a theological void; for a secular culture, unable to turn to religion for an authoritative standard of absolute good, history has provided us with as close as we are likely to come to as a standard of absolute evil. In this sense, at least, the Holocaust museum cannot escape the sanctity of the temple.

Yet I think it is possible to be skeptical and still conclude that his moment in our history offers us no greater opportunity in architecture than a building that bears witness to the Holocaust--to the specific atrocities committed at the death camps; to the general themes of inhumanity, of recognizing it, of acting on that recognition. Yes, the Holocaust may have become a business bound up with social, political, and economic agendas. No, such a building will not prevent cruelty from occurring again in the world, even in the building’s own shadow (we should already be prepared for the midnight visits of swastika-happy vandals). But all this does not meant that the ideal of preventing inhumanity should not be physically, architecturally embodied.

To visit the Mall in Washington, for a thirtysomething critic, is not a simple matter. It means recalling the Official Script read and duly absorbed on the fifth-grade school trip circa 1960; the antithetical eruption just a few years later, when the temples came to look like a cruel hoax organized by J. Edgar Hoover; and then the recognition that one’s anger was a step toward engagement with the meaning of these monuments, toward accepting the responsibility for action, for realizing the changes on which liberal culture depends.

Part of what makes Mata Lin’s Vietnam Memorial so moving is that it re-creates a public occasion out of this personal experience. It is moving in itself to discover that a monument can genuinely move you. The message is not simply that thousands of young Americans did not give their lives in vain (whatever the lesson we draw from their sacrifice); it is also that the stones are not erected in vain, that they can claim a value greatly surpassing the cost and effort it takes to build them. This discovery can transform the way we see other monuments. We may trudge from the Vietnam Memorial over to the Lincoln memorial, look up, and feel that even though we remain unreceptive to a race of marble faints, we are willing to accept the message coded in their inhuman scale. We, too, can have ideas bigger than our individual concerns, and make individual contributions to implement them. On the Mall, in short, one may learn to be receptive to symbolic language.

Last February I went to look at the plot of earth where the Holocaust Museum is now under construction. It was a cold, cloudy day with snow in the air. The earth was gouged into deep brown furrows. Since I’d seen Kiefer’s paintings not long before, I found it easy to imagine a Holocaust memorial that would be nothing more than what I saw that day: a chilly field of roughly plowed dirt, a site of burial and disinterment, of bodies, of history, of truth.

The Mall puts you in the state of mind to see everything symbolically. I was struck by a large sign at the site announcing that the general contractor for the Holocaust Museum is named Gassman. (A friend remarked that the guy must have come in with a very low bid.) And it seemed similarly insensitive to symbolism that a monument to counteract anti-Semitism should be wedged between the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and the Bureau of Accounting. For a moment I felt I’d stumbled into the Mall’s secret ghetto, into a marble equivalent of the old medieval quarter of moneylenders.

Some, including survivors of the Holocaust, have argued that a Holocaust Museum has no legitimate place in this symbolic center of American life. It’s hard to believe that they’ve ever been to the Washington Mall. Out-of-placeness is the essence of the place. The Mall is packed with artifacts of foreign experience--museums of African and Asian art, masterpieces of the Italian renaissance--elements that remind us, more eloquently than Greek and Roman forms, that ours is a culture of aliens. But more than that, the Mall is an epic abstraction, where nothing is rooted in anything like a central cultural experience. Indeed, its neoclassical vocabulary was devised in eighteenth-century Europe precisely to transcend nationalism, and to articulate the ideal of universal laws--the rational categories of history, science, art, government and justice--that underlie differences of time and place. The Mall is where rationalism welcomes pluralism, because finally pluralism is the most rational way to live.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will be a five story building, clad on three sides with buff-colored limestone, on the fourth flanked by tower-like shapes of red brick. The museum will contain 225,000 square feet of floor space (roughly two and a half times the size of the Whitney Museum in New York). The museum’s permanent exhibition will occupy about a quarter of this space. Divided into three segments and spread out over as many floors, the exhibition will trace the repression of the Jews (1933-39), the implementation of the Final Solution (1939-1945), and finally the struggle in the decades since to make meaning of the Holocaust. The top floor of the building will house library facilities, study rooms, and administrative offices. Two auditoriums and meeting and conference rooms will be located on a concourse level belowground.

In addition to these programmatic spaces, the museum will contain two large ceremonial halls whose primary function will be to arouse reflections on the Holocaust through the medium of architecture itself. The Hall of Witness, an atrium-like space, extends nearly the full length of the building and rises five stories to a skylight roof. It serves as a circulation space for access to various parts of the building. Attached to the building’s west side, but projecting forward from it into a forecourt overlooking the Tidal Basin, is a monumentally scaled Hall of Remembrance, a place for contemplation following the viewing of the exhibition. The forecourt commands a stirring prospect of “symbolic Washington,” with views of the Lincoln and Jefferson monuments, as well as the Tidal Basin. Other vantage points with the building offer glimpses of the Washington Monument and the White House.

Woven into the city’s symbolic fabric by these views, the building is also stitched into its physical context by the use of materials (limestone and brick) and proportions that echo the buildings immediately adjacent. Any new building on the Mall must satisfy, of course, the conservative taste of the Washington Commission of Fine Arts, and from the outside, at least, this building fits the governing neoclassical ethos of order, harmony and reason. Within this package of deference to local and national myth, however, lies a message of skepticism about the power of these virtues to determine human affairs.

James Ingo Freed, the architect selected to design the United States Holocaust Museum, is well acquainted with the Rule of Reason and its architectural representation. He began his career as an associate of Mies van der Rohe, the architect whose pared-down steel and glass towers epitomized the “New Objectivity” with which German architects in the 1920s moved away from the Romantic sensibility of Expressionist architecture toward a rational pragmatic approach. He was a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Chicago academy where Mies relocated after leaving Germany in 1938; and in the 1970s, Freed was dean of IIT’s School of Architecture.

Since 1956 Freed has been associated with I.M. Pei, an architect whose work has epitomized the corporate acceptance of a once-radical style of design. The projects Freed has designed for Pei--Kips Bay Plaza apartments, the Jacob Javits Convention center, 499 Park Avenue--are late Modern classics that achieve visual interest through the minimal manipulation of expressed structure and geometric form. (To some critics, Freed is glibly known as Mr. Space Frame.) Unlike many architects of his generation, he has never accepted the erosion of the Modern movement as a historical inevitability.

Freed also has a strong personal connection to the Holocaust. Born in Germany, he was a young child at the time of Crystal Night. His family left Germany abruptly, but several relatives who were unable to leave perished in the camps. (One reason Freed has continued to embrace Modernism may be that he has something personal at stake in regarding the Modern movement as the struggle of enlightened values against the forces of unreason.)

When Freed was asked to design the building, he recognized that there were two different approaches an architect could follow. The first was to design the building as a more or less neutral container, in effect a shed that could house dinosaur skeletons or abstract expressionist canvases as easily as photographs of Treblinka. The second approach was to make the container one with the contained: to make architecture express the experience to which the building is dedicated.

I.M. Pei is a firm that specializes in giving the grand treatment to the first approach. Had this been a typical Pei project, Freed might merely have joined structural acrobatics to powerful abstract geometric forms and left another team of designers to install the building’s content. But this is not a typical project. It is a building in which the symbolic meanings of forms take precedence over architectural abstractions; in which the sleek unity of the architectural package has been fragmented and exploded; in which allusions to architectural history verges on a Postmodern sensibility.

How does a building represent a catastrophe? What forms do you use to create an American building for an event that occurred far away? How does an architect schooled in International Style deal with another nation’s frenzy of nationalism? For a site like the Mall, whose neoclassical forms are read as nationalist symbols? At a time when the International Style has also lost its original meaning? Having chosen the second approach, to make the container one with the contained, Freed faced the challenge of devising a vocabulary capable of realizing it.

Obviously, the American continent offered Freed no source of explicit formal reference to the Holocaust itself. There are no concentration camp buildings in Washington to preserve. No piles of the effects of victims, no vandalized tombstones to mount up into a monument; no explicitly religious symbolism congruent with national belief; no view that can be framed through a window of streets where shopwindows were shattered and citizens herded into trucks. What Freed could draw upon, rather, was the tradition of the Mall itself: architectural vocabulary of the State, and its sometimes troubling relationship with the architecture of modernity, from the Enlightenment to now.

What Freed has done is to collide two kinds of vocabulary in this work. The first, most evident on the building’s exterior, is drawn from the architecture of the “Empire of Reason” that shapes official Washington, from the roots of Enlightenment to the glazed space frame of the twentieth century. Freed’s use of this vocabulary is most evident in the elevations at either end of the building, facing the two streets from which visitors will enter. The main entrance to the building is marked by a freestanding screen, classically proportioned, capped by a cornice. At the opposite end, the severe geometry of the Hall of Remembrance recalls the “radical classicism” with which eighteenth-century architects sought to translate enlightened values into physical structure. The elevation behind this pavilion is of conventional Modern design: a prismatic tent of glass capping a masonry wall, a wall that could have been lifted intact from the science lab of any state university campus built in the last quarter century.

But Freed has not used this vocabulary of the res publica uncritically. He understands that the story his building tells is about the use of official masks of high ideals to veil inner horrors. He is aware that the entrance façade to the building recalls the historicism of Postmodernism. While this satisfies the requirements of the art commission, Freed also intends it as a criticism of Postmodernism’s complacent fetishizing of classical manners to cover up our inner life. He has separated the classically symmetrical entrance from the building because he wants it to be just that: a screen, a façade with no true relationship to what is going on inside.

And it is inside that the second of Freed’s formal vocabularies comes into full play. This vocabulary is also drawn from the history of architecture, but it is an unwritten history, unwritten at least in the history of architecture: the history of the ghettos and the death camps. Freed acquainted himself with this history on a trip to Europe. Finding himself creatively blocked while working on the design, he visited camp sites and later did research in photography archives. He studied the characteristic forms of the ghettos: the street plans, the wooden bridges that led from one quarter of the ghetto over a public thoroughfare to another quarter. He looked, then, at the architecture of death: the metal gates, sometimes elaborately designed, with inscriptions like WORK MAKES YOU FREE; the shape of the oven doors; the metal bands placed around the ovens whose walls were at risk of explosion from uninterrupted use; the forms of the windows, with their shutters often closed; and, looming always, the watchtowers, symbols of control, and of its loss.

The Hall of Witness, a 6,000-square-foot-space, is a work that synthesizes Freed’s journey of discovery, incorporating abstracted versions of camp and ghetto architecture, communicating on a large spatial scale his own emotional fracture. It is a remarkable composition, almost an anti-composition, made of parts that do not fit or are about to come apart at the seams. Floors drop away before meeting walls, leaving long open trenches that must be crossed by short bridges, their entrances guarded by thin metal gates. Strips of glass block are set onto the floor to create the sense of fracture, of the loss of solid ground.

At the far wall, toward which visitors walk to reach the exhibition halls, panels of marble are shattered with an enormous fissure, a symbol of the breakdown in a civilization but a breakdown also in an architect’s capacity to convey what he has seen and felt. The walls of the room are brick, punctuated with false windows concealed by closed shutters and crossed by wide metal bands, as if to contain some invisible horror expanding within. Spanning the full length of the hall is no mere Modern space frame but a series of roof trusses, their metal forms twisted as if under pressure from walls closing in. Visible through the trusses, looming over the entire space, are four square brick blocks that recall watchtowers.

These two formal vocabularies derive from a common source: they are the two faces of the State. And when we leave the building and take a second look from the outside, we see that these faces are not cleanly separated from each other but wrap around each other, poke through each other, dissolve into one another, as though the official body of the State were slowly revolving to face us with a gun. We see that the brick that seems designed to harmonize so happily with the Bureau of Accounting is in fact derived from the barracks at Auschwitz. The roofline that recalls Louis Kahn’s Richards Medical Building at the University of Pennsylvania could be the source of machine fire directed against escaping internees. The commissioners who sent Freed back to the drawing board with the complaint that the Hall of Remembrance looked too much like a gun turret weren’t your usual philistines; they were picking up on the way the building’s mood alters our perception of its parts, from benign or idealistic to sinister and violent. (In viewing an earlier version of the entrance façade, some observers were struck by the resemblance of the cornice to the brim of an SS officer’s hat).

The Hall of Remembrance has six sides. It is hexagonal because when Freed was approached to undertake the design, he was asked whether he had any objection to including a six-sided enclosure as a feature of the project. He answered that he did not. He understood the request as a reference to the 6 million Jews who lost their lives under the Nazi regime; we might also infer a reference to the Star of David. The six sides do not touch but stand slightly separated from one another, like six tablets, or six tombstones. The Hall of Remembrance, in other words, is not quite the empty void suggested by its abstract geometric forms. It is an example of architectural rhetoric, in which the building has been enlisted to subvert gently the museum’s official mandate to erect a “non-sectarian” memorial. Probably few visitors to the Holocaust Museum will even bother to count the sides, much less equate a hexagon with a statistic. A more explicit reference to the Jewishness of the Holocaust would risk offending those eager to exploit the irony of an excluded subculture excluding others.

Still, as I contemplate what it might feel like to sit inside this space for contemplation, I find myself grateful to the museum and to the architect for resisting the blanket assimilation called for by the official mandate, for insisting on the Jewishness of this catastrophe. Not only because Jews were overwhelmingly Hitler’s victims but because it is Jewish survivors who have created a place for the Holocaust in contemporary consciousness by making so conspicuous a symbol as this building. To sit inside this hexagonal pavilion is to be reminded that it is through its meaning as a Jewish experience that the Holocaust has been recovered as something unresolved in the experience of others.

What Freed’s two vocabularies also have in common is that both are architecture. Freed visited the camps not only as a refugee from the Nazis but also as a member of a profession that has identified itself with ethics as well as economics. And what struck him was that the ghettos and the death camps and all the parts of which they were made had been designed. Albert Speer was not the only architect designing for Hitler. The machinery of death, too, had an architecture. And it, even more than Speer’s, was an architecture of reason, an architecture of order carried to madness, a rectilinear environment constructed to house and to destroy bodies. Indeed, it was the strict order of industrial architecture that appealed to the pioneer Modernist. In the Hall of Witness, Freed is bearing witness not only to “others.” He is taking note of the role architecture has played in causing and concealing the events of others. He is forcing the official architecture to confront the hidden. The fragmentation of the building’s forms, and in particular the warping of the roof trusses, has led some observers to see an affinity between this building and some of the work exhibited in last year’s Deconstructivist Architecture show at the Museum of Modern Art. But Freed’s thinking is miles away from the positions of that movement. He does not accept the Frankfurt school view that the Holocaust was a consequence of the Enlightenment, not a deviation from it. At the pinnacle of his building, he has placed study rooms for scholars inside the forms derived from the watchtowers of the camps. The ultimate inside-out, it is the affirmation of a liberal’s belief in the power of learning to dispel likeness.

As the record of an artist’s search for meaning, Freed’s building affirms the Enlightenment belief in having the courage to use your own understanding (in Kant’s famous formulation of “the motto of the Enlightenment”). The hexagonal shape of Freed’s design reminds us of the extent to which the controversies over the meaning of the Holocaust--indeed, over the right of the artist to seek that meaning in visual images--lie in the erosion of religious systems that once served to interpret experience, and to sanction all forms of visual representation. The search for meaning is now truly a search, not a surrender to those eager to impose meaning from outside: the state, the church, the historian, the architecture critic. And for Kant, the search was vital to resist that imposition: “Those guardians who have kindly taken supervision upon themselves see to it that the overwhelming majority of mankind should consider the step to maturity not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous.” That was the problem faced by the schoolteacher’s wife in Shoah. She had allowed her inside to be formed from the outside, by the ideology that encouraged her and her husband to mistake a poisonous myth for reality.

It isn’t only totalitarian governments that generate such myths. I’m curious to know what the National Air and Space Museum (an earlier Pei building, in the firm’s deluxe box mode) will look like to the schoolchild who has just been exposed to an exhibition on Auschwitz. Just down the Mall, the Holocaust Museum will be illustrating the consequences of accepting a symbolic language of propaganda as reality. We will see what went on behind the veils of national identity, chosen destiny, collective spirit. At Air and Space, meanwhile, the project of nationalism, including the evidence of a possible holocaust to come, proceeds, and it is shrouded in the veils of progress and internationalism. The Spirit of St. Louis has not been placed here to disturb us with the hints of a possible link between Lindbergh’s heroic high spirits and his attraction to fascism. The missiles have not been raised up on their retroburners to teach of Operation Paperclip, the postwar U.S. recruitment of Nazi scientists.

Freed knows that, unlike Air and Space, his building is part of a wave of “anti-monuments,” of which Maya Lin’s was the first and the Holocaust Museum is by no means the last. These works may look alien next to neoclassicism’s stately colonnades, but they remind us that the Mall’s marble columns grew, like modern democracy and modern architecture, from the soil of the critical tradition. Far from violating the spirit of the Mall’s architecture, these structures uncover its roots.