Architecture symbolises development and advancement, while war denotes destruction and damage, making them words that contradict one another and are found in both extremes. Architecture is the art and science of designing and constructing buildings, and war points to the destruction of decade-long properties and unsettling people involved in a conflict. It started after the cavemen period in the Neolithic period, and it was meant for safety, comfort, and protection from weather and perceived enemies. Architecture has been utilised in warfare between humans with the construction of watch towers, shelters, fortresses, and bunkers to create defence and mitigate the effect of the possible invasion by the enemy. Architecture has also been used to pay respect to fallen soldiers and victims of armed conflicts with the construction of memorials. Infrastructures are among the major destruction during the war due to their value to the society at war, this affects humans physically and psychologically and changes their perception of space.
St. Michael’s Old Cathedral, Coventry
St Michael’s Old Cathedral is a gothic-style building developed in the late 14th to the early 15th century. The building is England’s largest parish church, covering a floor area of over two thousand two hundred square metres. The building is forty-two metres in width, eighty-nine metres in length and possesses a ninety metres towering spire.
Coventry was one of the locations that suffered most during the second world war. The destruction of properties was at its peak during the Luftwaffe bombing which took place in the middle of November 1940 bringing down major landmarks in the United Kingdom. St Michael’s Old Cathedral was one of the major buildings in Coventry impacted by the bombing. The tower, spire and outer walls of the church were the only surviving parts of the cathedral which the remaining part completely ruined.
The destroyed building was left in ruins due to the high-cost implication for restoration to the original state. The ruins add a fascinating complement to the new cathedral. The wreckage was named the Garden of Remembrance, and it was left as a second world war memorial. The construction of a new cathedral began in 1956 with the building’s foundation stone laid by Queen Elizabeth II and was officially commissioned in 1962. The new building is located adjacent to the ruins of the old cathedral.
The Former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, Hiroshima
The former Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall is located in Naka-Ku, Hiroshima city and was built and completed in April 1915. It was designed by Jan Letzel, a famous Czech architect, who created a masterpiece with the use of partly-reinforced steel and brick and finished with a stunning copper dome with an oval shape. The building became a landmark in Hiroshima due to its European design. The building was renamed Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall in 1933, and it was used for expositions, art exhibitions and to display and sell local goods.
The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was destroyed during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945. The building was severely affected by the bombing, which set the entire building’s roof ablaze, melted the dome’s copper and left only the exterior walls after burning the building’s interior.
In 1996, the ruin of the former Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall was a part of the Hiroshima Memorial Park, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A memorial was created from the ruins of this hall now called the A-Bomb Dome to remember the one hundred and forty thousand victims of the atomic bombing and show the devastating effect of nuclear warfare.
Valletta, Malta’s Royal Opera House
Malta’s Royal Opera House is a performing arts venue designed by Edward Middleton Barry, an English architect, in 1861. The building is known as Teatru Rjal in Maltese, construction began in 1862 during the British era and was completed and officially opened in 1866. Teatru Rjal was located on the Auberge d’ Angleterre site in Strada Reale, Valletta, with a site area of two thousand one hundred and forty-two square metres. The opera house was one of the most iconic and aesthetically pleasing buildings in Malta, with one thousand and ninety-five seating capacity and standing of two hundred people.
Teatru Rjal was the 7th of April 1942 demolished from the impact of aerial bombing by Luftwaffe bombers during World War II. The national theatre was left in ruins, with a roof with twisted steel rafters and the auditorium and portico a pile of stones and dust. The end of the opera house was intact after the bombing, but it was demolished with the other surviving structures as a safety precaution in the 1950s, leaving only some columns and the building’s terrace.
The Royal Opera House was left abandoned for the rest of the 20th century, despite several efforts to rebuild the theatre after the debris of the former opera house was removed. The project was not considered important by the Malta government who focused on the development of other reconstruction projects despite different plans and proposals by different architects on the rebuilding of this theatre. Malta’s Royal Opera House was finally redesigned by Renzo Piano, an Italian architect, who turned the theatre into an open-air theatre amid a various backlash by the citizenry. The new theatre was called Pjazza Teatru Rjal, and it encouraged the rising and contemporary forms of artistic production in the country while preserving the cultural heritage of Malta.
Modern-day warfare takes place in cities, which results in the deliberate and severe destruction of this city’s built environment. Monumental architectural artefacts have become the target of armed conflicts due to their connection to the communities and history and in an attempt to erase the community’s identity. War disrupts the development within the economic and social aspects of the nation, while destroying already existing infrastructure and leading the people to unrest and poverty. We should seek to avoid any form of armed conflict in the world through a focus on peaceful resolution in case of armed conflicts.
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- Wikipedia contributors (no date) Coventry Cathedral, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Cathedral.
- ugc (2018) Coventry Cathedral Ruins, Atlas Obscura. Available at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/coventry-cathedral-ruins (Accessed: July 19, 2022).
- Coventry’s Old Cathedral (no date) Historiccoventry.co.uk. Available at: https://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/cathedrals/oldcathedral.php (Accessed: July 19, 2022).
- Universal Heritage (no date) Hiroshima.jp. Available at: http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/virtual/VirtualMuseum_e/exhibit_e/exh0807_e/exh080707_e.html (Accessed: July 19, 2022).
- The Atomic Bomb Dome (no date) HIROSHIMA PEACE TOURISM. Available at: https://peace-tourism.com/en/story/a-bombdome.html (Accessed: July 19, 2022).
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- Architects in war zones: how to protect the future (no date) Arup.com. Available at: https://www.arup.com/en/perspectives/architects-in-war-zones-how-to-protect-the-future (Accessed: July 19, 2022).