[FOUNTAIN]Posts, lintels, and walls that keep us apart

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[FOUNTAIN]Posts, lintels, and walls that keep us apart

According to architects, the star of pre-modern Western architecture was the wall. Most buildings were built using masonry, in which the walls are built first and then the roof is added. The construction method, size, shape and materials of the walls determined the design, style and durability of the structure.
Masonry construction emphasized the role of walls in the structures, and did not allow large windows or doors for access to the outside. People could not dominate and use the building, because the walls were a boundary that set apart the inner space from the outer world. As walls began to assume a new function as a divider, people felt enclosed and oppressed, as if the building controlled those inside.
The function of walls began to change in the modern age as a revolution in construction materials led to reinforced concrete and steel frames. The revolution in materials brought a revolution in architecture, and the spotlight moved from the walls to beams and columns. The introduction of the post-and-lintel construction method, which de-emphasizes the structural function of walls, produced a new architectural style that focused on communication between the building and the people and between the people and the world. Glass or other transparent material on the outer walls represents communication and accessibility.
But physical walls are not the only divider that keeps people away from the world. Psychological barriers make people accept only what they want, and intolerance makes people stay enclosed in virtual walls. “Building walls” means severing a good relationship and keeping one’s distance from friends. Psychological walls can oppress people, and being enclosed by a fence can make people go backward.
Takeshi Yoro, author of last year’s bestseller “Baka no Kabe,” or “The Wall of Foolishness,” wrote that self-erected walls would filter information and let in only what people inside want to know. These are walls of foolishness that obstruct communications with the times as well as between people.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration is celebrating its first year in office. It is time for us to ask ourselves whether we have erected walls of foolishness as we complain about severed communications and misunderstandings and speak harshly of our fury and frustration.

by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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