Space of representational negotiations: beyond Ruskin and Bhabha
Although buildings are commonly perceived as the most permanent material manifestations of culture-specific ideas, their symbolic functioning is anything but unequivocal. The traditional history of architecture has created the impression that built environments transmit well-defined meanings across time by filtering our view of supposed monuments of architecture according to the way they representationally affirm dominant narratives. I argue, however, that many constructed spaces that do not project conclusive messages have nonetheless played an instrumental role in shaping cultural identity, supporting highly nuanced nonverbal cultural exchanges by engendering original thoughts, directing imagination, and focusing critical attention. A historical chapel from Poland will exemplify how the symbolic constitution of such a material place reaches beyond both traditional and contemporary understandings of cultural identity, the first represented by Ruskin and the second by Homi Bhabha.