This is an opinion op-ed by Frances Hogan Steffian, writer, bitcoin investor, and wife of an award-winning architect.
What Should Bitcoin Architectural Styles Be? In the history of our world, our sustainable buildings give stature to our best ideas and enshrine our core beliefs. If bitcoin realizes its potential to remake the global financial system, and as bitcoin communities spring up around the world, how should our ideas and ideals about bitcoin be expressed in these newly constructed environments?
The power of architecture
Don’t underestimate the power of architecture. She goes through the ages. It still conveys the worldview of those who built it, be it an individual architect or a cultural project built over time. The physical act of walking through a building imprints on each visitor a visceral experience of the ideas the builders and architect intended.
Medieval fortresses, for example, tell the story of the people they housed and protected. They usually don’t have a single architect or builder, but these structures have evolved over time, so their message can be less controlled and more honest. These ancient strongholds convey our best and worst ideas of security, family, application, control, materialism, and triumph over the physical world.
And what do our best buildings express? More often than not, it is the human desire to transcend our everyday physical limitations and live on another level of beauty, freedom, and connection to the divine. The classic interior of the Pantheon in Rome is centered by an oculus open to the sky, which is a constant reminder of the vastness of existence, far beyond human comprehension. In India, the sublime Taj Mahal can offer the experience of being in a higher dimension based on a physical basis. We can walk in heaven now. This is similar to the best reality that most optimistic Bitcoiners dream of.
Expressing the Ideals of Bitcoin in the Built Environment
North Korean defector Yeonmi Park electrified Bitcoin Conference 2022 with her speech on how private and secure financial independence is essential in the fight against human exploitation. The link to his talk went viral, even being tweeted by Jack Dorsey. His personal triumphs over human trafficking demonstrate Bitcoiners’ greatest hope: breaking the shackles of financial slavery that bind our planet. Bitcoiners also yearn for private and secure personal wealth. If there is global adoption of Bitcoin, the potential value could really go to the moon.
As such, now is the time to consider what messages the architectural style of Bitcoin will convey and how we want to express those ideas in our built environment. As stated above, the global community could start with concepts such as freedom, empowerment, stability, privacy, and elegance.
Yet Bitcoin’s architectural style should not be based on or suited to a single Earth civilization. The point of bitcoin is that it liberates and unites the world. This means that the architectural style of Bitcoin that is expressed in Asia will be different from the style conveyed in Central America, for example. Different stories and cultural experiences will be constructed.
Now, in this time of the world, bitcoin communities are emerging all over the world. The best known are found in Central America, but are increasingly emerging all over the world.
In El Salvador there is the Bitcoin community built in El Zonte and a extraordinary city planned for the base of the inactive volcano Conchagua. There is Lago Bitcoin in Guatemala and Bitcoin Jungle in Costa Rica. Bitcoin Ekasi was born in a South African township, as well as other communities in Africa. Likewise, bitcoin communities in places around the world, including Thailandparticipate in the World bitcoin festival.
Architectural styles should convey beauty and the desire to live beautifully. This is actually a very practical point. Civilizations tend not to bother to maintain their ugly buildings. Again, we want our visions to be permanent.
Existing Bitcoin communities already express sensitivity to their ecological environment. A vision of peace and harmony has already emerged in the ecological designs of proposed new developments, particularly in El Zonte, El Salvador. But do they also express beauty and self-confidence?
Above all, Bitcoin is decentralized. Everyone who participates in the Bitcoin economy uses Bitcoin just like everyone else. She was described as “egalitarian” and “popular”. The efforts of some famous modern architects come to mind in their attempts to embody similar ideas in physical form: Le Corbusier, Mies van de Rohe and Walter Gropious, to name a few. These architects are renowned for creating spaces that are equally accessible and non-elitist. They used everyday materials that anyone can access and their designs focused on improving everyday life. They created spatial experiences, not ornate displays of architectural expense. The intention of modern architects was to employ mundane materials to create an extraordinary and uplifting experience that everyone can enjoy.
What Should Bitcoin Architectural Styles Be not be? Let’s start with the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, DC The giant scale of the building can make visitors feel insignificant. Narrow windows and minimal details are unwelcoming and give a feeling of impenetrability. While the Fed describes the style of his building as “stripped classicism”, this building, completed in 1937, displays many features of fascist architecture.
Nearby, the Washington D.C. outdoor common space known as national mall was designed to convey to the visitor the grandeur and size of the American aapital. Intentionally or not, the vast mall engulfs most crowds of people and conveys the idea that no matter how large the mass of the crowd, the government institution will always eclipse the people. The vast scale could reassure someone in their sense of immutability or, conversely, leave a visitor feeling helpless.
We also need to be very aware of all the possible interpretations of Bitcoin’s architectural styles. For example, a bitcoin cynic might joke that bitcoin’s dangerous volatility was perfectly expressed as a city built on a volcano. To counter this feeling, now is the time to demonstrate the efficiency, stability, endurance, beauty and serenity of harnessing the geothermal power of an inactive volcano.
The 20th century saw the tearing of local culture all over the planet. We need to pick up those frayed edges and connect them to our future. We must recover even our smallest achievements. We must be extremely idealistic when considering the built environment in which we want to live in the future. Through Bitcoin’s architectural styles, we have the opportunity to reap the best of human efforts and build a carefully considered vision of our future.
This is a guest post by Frances Hogan Steffian. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.