Power Houses

Symbolism matters. The great powers know this, and their military architecture reflects it.

Issue: Summer 2001

In the years following the end of the Cold War, security issues and defense establishments were supposed to retreat into the background of world affairs, but in some respects military organizations have taken on great prominence, or at least their buildings have. Indeed, one can tell a lot about military attitudes in a particular country by looking at the state of its defense ministry buildings. In the past few years, several countries, including Japan, Germany, China and Russia, have either reclaimed historically significant former headquarters or built lavish, sometimes ostentatious, new defense ministries. Even the venerable Pentagon, the five-sided gray monolith on the wrong side of the Potomac, is getting a multibillion-dollar facelift and addition.

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