Architecture is a multifaceted field of study, encompassing insights from history, aesthetics, mathematics, engineering, anthropology and even psychology. Due to the diversity of architectural study, a key concern in essay composition is to balance multiple disciplinary strands within one consistent whole. To this end, it is useful initially to narrow the scope of the essay, identifying the particular areas of inquiry for your investigation. This is best achieved by a tightly focused essay question. For example, “What were the influences of 1920s nationalism on the modernist monuments in 1930s Italy?” Here we have identified a specific time period (the 1920s and 1930s), geographical region (Italy), ideological movement (nationalism), artistic movement (modernism), and specific type of structure (monument). Having refined our research interests in this way, we have a broad roadmap to follow. We want to begin with the broadest criterion, moving incrementally toward specifics, ending with a conclusive statement showing how these discrete elements relate to one another. Hence the essay might open by contextualising the historical period (our broadest category), progressing to more detailed explanations of the respective artistic, cultural and ideological positions (far narrower categories) that gained currency during this timeframe. So, we might commence by alluding to the early twentieth century’s rise of nationalism and socialism leading to fascist ideology and how the political priorities of fascism co-opted modernist aesthetics. This, in turn, might lead us to conclude that ultra-nationalism’s statist ideology, in conjunction with modernism’s occupation with industrialisation and mass communications, resulted in monumental architecture that evoked imperial grandeur, collective power, and the supremacy of the nation.
A first-rate architectural essay will be able to connect the various elements outlined above, in a causally coherent manner. This requires locating the relevant continuities between the various disciplines. The way history infects on politics and ideology; the way ideology shapes art; the influence of art on public structures, and so on. Essentially, you want to establish a logical and linear account of the various influences and their outcomes. In addition, you want to consolidate your position with appropriate citation. Architecture affords scope for both quantitative and qualitative evidence. Thus one might cite, in the first instance, numerical specifics on the relative increase in Romanesque edifices during Mussolini’s rule as opposed to before; and, in the second instance, contemporaneous accounts of the artistic purposes of such edifices (from architectural journals, essays, news articles, et cetera). By finding relevant secondary sources, we can make our essay far more convincing. The best architectural essay, then, will narrow focus at the outset; chart a logical line of causality between various research items; adduce evidence in support of this causal line; and, finally, offer a summation of the above. In order to assure a good grade, spend extra time on fashioning a compelling conclusion. Architecture as a discipline requires artistic capability. You can demonstrate such capability with a tonally, stylistic arresting finale. As an example, “The excesses of nationalism, which negated individuality, are echoed in the vast, industrial symmetries of monuments intended equally to inspire awe and fear in the citizenry; but a politics of fear is the enemy of art [and so forth]”. The point is to bring all critical avenues to one final outlet and do so with verbal shine if possible.
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