Law 18 – Do not build fortresses to protect yourself

Law 18 – Do not build fortresses to protect yourself

Law 18 – Do not build fortresses to protect yourself, Isolation is Dangerous.”

At the current moment I am busy reading the book ’48 Laws Of Power’ by Robert Greene. The books premise is to equip the reader with basic laws that he or she can follow to attain this illusive thing we call power.

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Another person of interest who has written about Power is Michel Foucault. Foulcault is a French man who was born in 1926 and passed away in 1984. He was a philosopher and also had a degree in psychology. Through his life he came up with a theory about power. Foulcault put forth that power and knowledge can not be seen as different entities. Rather that the two, power and knowledge, are so intertwined that separating them would be a sin. He derived that the use knowledge is always a derivative of power. And that the use of power is always a derivative of knowledge. I believe that this basic idea can be simplified to the well known saying of, ‘knowledge is power’.

Michel Foucault makes an example of how power plays a role in the catholic church. The idea behind the confessional, a confessional being an enclosed stall in a church divided by a screen of curtain in which a priest sits to hear confessions from the church people. Foucault believed that this was whole idea was to have people incited to come confess their sins, in doing so reveal or give up their inner most private knowledge about their emotions, desires and thoughts. Through this, the church gains knowledge about their people and because the basic ideas of religion have with in it restrictions, such as the ten commandments. Therefore because of these restrictions people can often feel a sense of there identity being monitored and a subtle control being applied on them.

The ideas of power and knowledge by Michel Foucault give example to the fact that there a ways of using power and knowledge that can lead in a negative direction. Another aspect that is the polar opposite, that the application of power and knowledge can lead in a positive and a more fruitful direction. The difference is up to the particular person who holds the power and knowledge in which way things turn out. Emotions and feelings such like greed and selfishness can lead any person astray from a positive power and knowledge route to a vicious abuse of it. An example being the Joseph Stalin’s of the world, the Adolf Hitler’s of the world and the Chairman Moa’s of the world. These are the most infamous people who abused their knowledge and power and that in-turn lead to millions of peoples deaths. That is not the right way.

From an onlookers perspective the book 48 laws of power might seem to be an instrument that teaches people how to change their innocent personality traits for nefarious reasons, an interesting analogy being, ‘from a harmless earthworm to a venomous snake’. But that perspective is far from the actual case. I believe the book is for people who have seen that society and the corporate world is unfair. I mean this in terms of the fact that we live in a competitive world. A capitalist society, where humans are inherently competitive. A world where everyone is trying to get ahead of everybody else and where some will try to get ahead by any means necessary. This is exponentially true in the business and corporate world, where money is involved. Hence this brings the point that the book 48 laws of power is for those specific people who are keen to learn about social dynamics that can enable them to move up in the unfair environments we find ourselves in.

The author of the book 48 laws of power, which is a best seller, is Robert Greene. Greene is also well known for his other best selling books such as ‘The 33 laws of strategies’ , ‘ The art of seduction’ and ‘Mastery’. Before being an author Greene has said he has had a variety of jobs, he estimates about eighty different types. While he worked as a writer he had an idea about writing a book about power which eventually developed into his first book the 48 laws of power.

In the book Robert Greene writes the laws in a lists format, with each of the laws having a basic format. So under each newly stated law he gets in depth writing about what he means about that specific law in which he calls ‘ Judgement’. The next step is ‘transgression of the law’, here Greene usually tells a true story of well known historical figures who transgressed against the specific law and how the grieving payed for their transgressions. The third step of Greenes format is ‘interpretation’, here he discusses, dissects and interprets the mistakes of the transgressor for the reader. Step four is ‘observants of the law’ in the part of the format Greene tells a different story of another historical figure who used the specific law well and how it benefited said person. Step five is another ‘interpretation’ but this time of how well the law was executed by the observant of the law. The last step is called ‘keys to power’, here it is a conclusion and a closing statement about the law and how it can be used.

Now to the Law 18, which reads ‘Do not build fortresses to protect yourself, Isolation is Dangerous’. This law also follows in the footsteps of the Greene format with the ‘judgements’, ‘transgression of the law’ and then leading up to ‘interpretations’. In this law Greene compares the lives of the first emperor of China, Ch’in Shih Huang Ti ( the transgressor) and Louis the xiv (the observant of the law).

Ch’in Shih Huang Ti ‘s story is of an emperor who isolated himself from his kingdom and his people. That not only lead to him acquiring more enemies but also lead to his own governing ministers to plot against him.

Louis the xiv’s story is of a king who lived in a fortress in the centre of the city and was the centre of his whole kingdom, ever present and having nothing go on under his nose. He lived in the Palace Of Versailles which is now known as the Chateau de Versailles. This then lead to Louis’ reign to be filled with peace and a moderate amount of smooth sailing for about fifty years.

The lesson of the eighteenth law is that if you want to attain and maintain power, is that you should always place yourself in the centre of activities. As a person in your own palace perhaps, you should be aware of the the things that go on on your street. You have to be aware if you are in danger or not and not only should you be aware perhaps, your neighbours should also be aware. That puts you in the position of receiving immediate help if any imminent danger is lurking.

Law 18 is the law that captured my architectural mind. It forced me to think about how, its stories do not only relate to the road of attaining power. This law also relates to a basic law of architecture and the idea of designing a good building. It is also interesting to note the architectural time periods that these two individuals were living in, where big fortresses were not an uncommon site.

The Palace Of Versailles was first constructed in 1623 on land that was near the village on Versailles. Its original form was a hunting lodge built with red brick and stone. At a later date of 1631, the hunting lodge was upgraded, designed and constructed as a place by Louis Le Vau, who was a French Baroque architect. For this reason the Chateau was decorated in the Baroque style, which in-turn made the building express the power and hierarchy of the state.
The building has elements from the classic and renaissance era, with the use of large columns and arches. Another major part of the design of this building is the amount of emphasis placed around landscape design and city planning. This is evident in the fact that even today The Garden of Versailles is one of the most famous landscape architecture sites around the world. Interns of city planning the building and its land sit in a area where all roads lead to. It is as though the city was constructed in a way that pays homage to the Palace.

The king, Louis xiv, had his his private chamber located exactly in the centre of the palace. This shows his understanding or application of the Law 18 where everything revolves around him. The palace had many rooms and buildings but only a selected few were important. The palace buildings were important enough so that the king would only select a few to use for the important occasions. The South wing housed the original apartments but later was replaced by the Louis-Philippes library. The North wing housed the Chapel, the Opera, and the picture galleries. The palace also consisted of many important rooms. The Hall of Mirrors stretches at 71 metres long and has held many state occasions including the signing of the Versailles treaties. Another important room in the chateau is the Library of Louis XIV. This room features neoclassical paneling and the Kings terrestrial globe.

There are multiple examples in our urban landscape of Cape Town and the rest of the world where this law has been broken. I want to discuss these in depth the ideas behind it and why it is done. The ideas of hierarchy behind building forts, why it is bad to do it these days and researching some examples of this law 18 and its relation to architecture.

Don’t just describe the buildings also analysis is important for projects
Simplicity and clarity is important
Explain the subject matters and don’t assume the readers knowledge
Contrast your references when talking about different architectural theorists


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