Architecture,apart from the aesthetic and functional elements it has been associated with, has also been long known to be as an establishment of iconism,authoritarianism, Nepotism and even intimidation.
It has long been used as a tool to demarcate political and georgraphical boundaries, and even as a brand image in many ways than one.
The several century or so old schools in Sri Lanka are a perfect epitomy of this same iconism, and all others binding factors. What makes a school boy or girl coming from one of these old schools in Colombo,Kandy, Galle,Jaffna or any other major town in Sri Lanka be so loyal to his/her alma mater and all that she stands for is its architecture and elegance apart from many other reasons. The aesthetics and the elegance of the buildings inculcate in them a certain amount of Pride and belonging and sub consciously brainwashes them to be bound by that phenomenon. All school children from these conserved buildings leave the building in sorrow and determination to serve her in every possible way, even if they do not serve at least they intend to do so.
The building and the elegance that oozes from it and the same functional aspects of the building itself is instrumental in moulding the psyche and thought process of the student, and the growth of a child in such a building for 13 or so consecutive years instills in him a sense of security and strength that he takes out for long years to come.
All of us have memories of school days and reminice them with a sense of extremist nostalgia, the mischievous pranks pulled on teachers, the many practical jokes played in the class, the class geek who does nothing but stays in the lab, to the sportsmen who religiously attended sports pratices in the college grounds. Apart from other obvious factors, what binds all these in a memory and visually places individuals/friends in our mind which we remember for so long is the very ambience and and locality within the school campus in which whatever incident took place. If not for that link which acts as the matrix to hold all these data together, the incidents remembered would only include a few names.
Class favourites, the pranks they pull up, the eccentric teachers and the stern principal are given due credit in the story grandpa relates to his mesmerised audience, and it is rarely understood that all those memories revolve around a place and the elements or signature icons of that particular place, the lab, the principals office or the ground pavilion.
And its is this very same element in the building that creates an umbilical chord that connects the past, present and future generations of that particular school.
If an old prestigious school in colombo or elsewhere was demolished and a high tech multi million dollar new building was set up to carry on the very same functions of the old builing It would do so (in other words, to cut the umbilical chord), but with a lot of different essences attched to it. There may not be the usual pranks, the mischeivous laughter, the strict disciplinarians and the friendly school peon, but it would be replaced with Robotic students, teachers with a mechanical mindset, and an environment that philosophizes a whole different set of values. The latter mentioned are not necessarily negative attributes, but rather attributes that are in many ways than one devoid of an element that makes school life so fundamental for the growth of a student.
These factors are usually unnoticed by the larger slice of society, a student from an old building may always be stereo typical of the student from a new (high quality even) establishment, and vice versa. But that is what architecture does, it gives different people a different sense of belonging and loyalty, and a totally unique mindset and eyes to see the world.
This is something i wrote in 2007, therefore ideas mentioned may perhaps be more debatable now than they were then. Just felt like reposting.