This article is not a sequel as such of the previous one, but rather starts where the last post ended. I was evoking the possibility for the corpse of Remus to have been buried in the thickness of the line traced by his twin brother Romulus to found his city. This narrative reminds me of another that I published almost two years ago: the sad sadian tale that Eduardo McIntosh created to tell us how far can architecture be an accomplice in the realization of the worst crimes. In that case, Afghans masons were forced by the Talibans to build an architecture with the dead bodies of the Northern Alliance (commanded back then by Massoud) used as human bricks. The imagery created by Eduardo helped any viewer to fathom the horror introduced by the narrative.
Some other stories are ever worse however. Back when I presented Eduardo’s narrative, I evoked another article written few days earlier about the book Camouflage written by Neil Leach, in which he tells the Central European tale of Mason Manole who had to immure his own wife to grant success to the Monastery he promised he will build (see the full story in the same article). As he had the opportunity to point out, N. Leach’s interest in this story is focused on the notion of sacrifice, the price to pay to give a soul to a building; what I am more interested (for the moment) to examine is the role of architecture in this particular form of murder. Just like a gun or any similar weapon, architecture in its inherent violence is able to kill a body subjugated by its power. In this regard, the cries of the wife in the tale of mason Manole are particularly expressive in their characterization of the absolute violence on the body it develops:
Manole, Manole, Master Manole! The wall presses me too hard and breaks my little body! […] Manole, Manole, Master Manole, the wall presses me too hard and crushes my breasts and breaks my child.
I have been often writing about the power on the bodies that is carried by the lines we trace as architects; in that case, the body is prisoner within the line itself (in opposition of walking on the line as the examples of funambulists recurrently observed here), where the matter is so dense that the body has for only horizon to disperse into it, and therefore to cease to develop life (or rather to cease to fight death).
This tale is based on real stories whose veracity is not always easy to confirm. When I was working on a construction site few years ago for example, my contractor told me horrifying stories of undocumented workers who fell into the giant concrete cast of the Grande Arche de la Défense in Paris when it was being built in the last 1980’s. Whether those stories belong to the realms of some sort of sordid myths of the profession or had something grounded into reality was never easy to determine. What is for sure is that immurement has been a mean of capital punishment in the Middle Age, but as far as the beginning of the 20th century in Mongolia for example.
Architecture is a weapon; that means that architecture does not force anybody to be imprisoned within it, or worse within its walls, just like the gun does not force anybody to be in its target. However, once a body is forced or is willing to be in such situation, architecture will not fail to unfold its power on it. Immurement and such horrifying scenarios are only the tragic and spectacular manifestation of such power; their extremity should not make us forget that we, as bodies, are all subjugated to it.