INTERNET — King Arthur and his knights sat at a round table so that none might be seen as sitting at its head. The knights, deciding as a group, accepted the quest for the Holy Grail and set out into the forest individually, entering where each personally felt the forest was at its darkest. None went together, for they all knew that would be shameful cowardice and fear of the dark. Meanwhile, the Grail king sat in his castle, ruling by default with a grievous and fatal wound from the ancient Roman spear which pierced Christ.
Although Arthur’s government is monarchic, the architecture of its meeting hall, a round table, embodies much ideology continued in contemporary Western culture and democratic governance, showing a clear preference for speech without privilege. Coupled with that is the identification of the quest with individuation, as each knight must take a separate, perilously individual path.
Western Ideology has bubbled to consciousness in this story and its architecture. This ideology is set in opposition to the Grail King, who rules by default in a watery castle hidden to the conscious mind, bearing a grievous wound which will not heal. The grail has been depicted in many ways and attributed with various powers, but the boon of the grail quest lies in taking over for the Grail King without suffering from the same unconscious blind spots, indicated by both violent Roman Humanism and Christ’s Passion on display in his wound. Parsifal, because of some poor advice, fails to mention the Grail King’s wound and so fails the quest. Parsifal is told it is impossible to try again, but by now he has learned to ignore advice and succeeds anyway.
The American Senate’s chamber is a bisected circle, a half Arthurian table showing the American mania for competing parties. The President’s Oval Office is a distortion of Arthur’s table, squeezing the idea of equality like the Ancient Greek paradox, “first among equals,” while maintaining its wholeness. The exteriors of government buildings, based on Greek and Roman temples, continue in a design tradition intended to impress with divine authority. They are now left bare and white in reference to the ruins of the temples, an effect which suggests the timelessness of God.
Postmodern Architecturalist, Dr. Angstrom H. Troubador, believes that many of the problems of the US government are determined by the architecture of state apparatuses. Dr. Troubador, at a round table discussion with fellow Revolutionary Architecturalists, told the press, “You want an end to the two party system? You want better government? Build a circular congress with no aisles and no rows! Seems unwieldy, eh, what with all those people at one round table, but we’ve got the internet now. It’s the biggest damned round table there is, in some places . . . Yeah, there’s still going to be a hierarchy, there’s always going to be hierarchies. People gotta cooperate, make decisions. Thing is, Caesar starts thinking he’s God and it ain’t even his fault, it’s the architecture fucking him up. We don’t need Arthur’s round table, we just need some contemporary version where privileged speech doesn’t emanate from a great podium at the top of stairs to heaven inside of ancient sun bleached Greek temples.”