“Nihilist” is a word that is becoming increasingly popular nowadays- especially when a millennial is asked to describe themselves. A Nihilist is a person who rejects all moral and religious values and principles. This concept, which is so relevant in today’s era, was first popularised by Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1800s.
Born in the kingdom of Prussia in 1844, Nietzsche was an immensely popular philosopher also known for his literature, music compositions, critique, and philology. His favourite topics to write about include irony and aphorism. He rejected the idea of the existence of God and religion, and Christian morality in particular. Human behaviour as well as the idea of power, and specific human beings rising above the masses was an idea that he was captivated by, and hence his works became closely allied with fascism and Adolf Hitler. In the 1960s, there was a “renaissance” of Nietzsche’s thoughts and works, and had a great impact on many 21st century philosophers. A number of modern-day art, literature, psychology, and pop-culture works have shown a tremendous influence of Nietzsche’s thoughts.
Art had a great impact on many of his philosophies, and he believed that “the world is a work of art that gives birth to itself.” One of his main interests include aesthetics, and this enthusiasm for beauty coupled with his eccentric thinking would have surely made him an immensely unforgettable architect.
Anti-consumerism, an ideology that opposes the possession of material goods, became a way of life for Nietzsche. This quite contradicted the lifestyle of the people of his era, where materialism was becoming increasingly popular due to the establishment of the industrial revolution in Europe. His inclination towards anti-consumerism would have encouraged him to use sustainable designs, materials, and methods. The conscious practice of sustainable architecture while the industrial revolution was flourishing would have definitely been unheard of- just like Nietzsche’s philosophical ideologies and works.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, one of Nietzsche’s most popular literatures, renders the concept of Übermensch or “Superhuman” as the main goal of the protagonist’s (Zarathustra’s) life. This thus reflects in real life as being powerful and superhuman should be the ultimate goal for humanity to set for itself. Nietzsche’s engrossment with the power could be reflected in his designs being Brutalist in style. Brutalism is characterised by monolithic, monumental, and modernist style buildings. These buildings tend to have a beastly character, and the use of concrete is an important feature of such buildings. Friedrich Nietzsche’s erratic architecture would have been a tremendously fascinating amalgamation of two distinctly contradictory styles- Brutalism and Sustainability.
I imagine, the Geisel Library by William Pereira Associates would be an excellent example of such a distinct style of architecture, especially if it were accommodated with sustainable features- maybe in terms of the materials used or the adoption of green spaces to naturally control the interior climate. The unique, imposing, funnel-like form of the building is also very “Übermensch“ in the true spirit of the word.
“For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.”
This is one of Nietzsche’s most popular quotes, and in my opinion the philosopher’s architecture could be quite wacky-looking. Something along the lines of Safdie Architects’ Habitat 67 could be well imagined as Nietzschian architecture. Habitat 67 has a Brutalist and chaotic character that could imaginably be well connected to Nietzsche’s ideologies and style. The iconic and legendary conceptual design of the building could be reflected in the form of Nietzsche’s iconic philosophies that remain relevant in this century too.
Friedrich Nietzsche had also taken a keen liking towards music, and composed several compositions. However, he claimed that he “might be a thoroughly unsuccessful musician”. In my opinion, Nietzsche would have used this love for music as an influence for the design of his architecture. Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry’s Dancing House comes to my mind when I think of Nietzschian architecture inspired by music. It has a slightly imposing and brutalist character, au contraire to its capricious curvy form.
One of the most phenomenal philosophies of Nietzsche is the Apollonian and Dionysian concept, based on Greek mythology’s Apollo and Dionysus. This is a two-fold concept that juxtapose each other- while Apollo personifies order, harmony, and peace; Dionysus epitomizes chaos, disorder, and destruction. Nietzsche’s principles depicted Apollo as an illusion, and Dionysus as the reality. This chaos could have also been evident in his architecture- a primitive version of Frank Gehry’s LUMA Arles comes to mind when I think of this style.
In an era and country overshadowed by dictatorship, it is quite plausible that Nietzsche’s works would have not been accepted by the masses. However, just like his philosophies, there could have been a rebirth of his style and influence in the 20th and 21st centuries- his style could have been the basis of influence for many generations of contemporary architects.