I saw two different photos of important government buildings in the past 24 hours. First, the City Hall in Wasilla, AK (Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month" last month):
Contrast that beauty to today's featured image on Wikipedia, the town hall in Werdau, Germany:
Speaking beyond the pure architectural merits of each building (if you can say Wasilla's city hall has merits?), I can see two different arguments that might develop about the sociopolitical ramifications of these two buildings:
1. Wasilla's building represents a free-market economy in the context of a limited government. It is humble, blends in, cost little to build, and is not presumptuous enough to place itself at the end of an axis, in a town square, etc. Werdau's building is a symbol for the imperial and local power of the German Empire (in control during its construction). It is a heavy, lavish, and architecturally significant building that dominates its neighbors. It is an expensive building that places itself above the commoners of the town.
2. Wasilla's building does not ask for respect; in fact, it invites disrespect. It looks almost transient, as if it is a temporary site for the city offices while a better building is being built elsewhere. Imagine a seven-year-old Wasillan visiting this place on a field trip - would they have any belief in the merits of good government after visiting it? Would anyone respect the U.S. Senate if it was housed in a building this nondescript? Werdau's building views the government as an important element in the town's cultural fabric and daily life. Here, even visitors would be tempted to step inside, perhaps encountering something about how the government works.
Obviously, the form of government and its actual power in society is not determined by the building in which it is housed, but vice versa. However, shouldn't respect and dignity surround any government? Even the most limited laissez faire government is there for a reason and a purpose, and great care is taken to maintain it by the people. Shouldn't our buildings at least reflect that simple notion?