Handout (PDF): Plan of Church Court, apartments built in the remnants of an urban church, Boston.
The rebuilding of cities, especially after World War II, has raised many questions about what role the past should play in reconstruction. Recently, debates about two knowledge systems of the past, history and memory, have questioned the nature of each. The French historian, Pierre Nora, has accused history of suppressing the living memories of cultures especially in the developing world, but most other critics have assumed the necessity of both: "memory is color, history is line," (Wieseltier). This class investigates the idea of memory and some its pertinence to city form.
Architecture and place have old associations with remembering. Classical buildings were actively used in the mnemonic learning system and in the training of debate: today the continuity and stability of form in our cities enables us to be nourished even in times of upheaval. The French sociologist, Maurice Halbwachs who was the first to write about "collective memory", claims that every collective memory unfolds within a spatial framework and that mental stability is due to the fact that objects of our daily life change so little or so regularly. "We may live without (architecture), we may pray without her, but we cannot remember without her," Ruskin argued. In the bible, the city of Enoch, built by Cain after his banishment, is nourishment against the "terror of space", and the philosopher Karsten Harries says that because of man's knowledge of his own mortality, fixed place and shelter are protection also against the "terror of time". Ruins have been the remnants of destruction but also places of a curious fascination with the past, as in the English country ruins built in the 16th century, or in the case of Louis Kahn's designs for the new Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem where he wished to retain the ruins of the previously destroyed synagogue as positive aids to memory. Monuments, memorials and museums are our artifacts in the battle against forgetting, and yet we struggle: "There is nothing in this world as invisible as a monument" Robert Musil says, as we accept the loss of content over time. Recently memorials have sought to include elements that can ensure the updating of the remembering experience: as in the Navy and proposed Air Force memorials and the Holocaust memorial museum in Washington.
There are now a number of accepted building practices which take the past into account. For one, the present can be made as if it were the past, as in the post-war rebuilding of Warsaw to appear as it was prior to the war. Or the facades of buildings can be made to appear similar to those of the past, while the interiors are completely changed, as in the rebuilding of housing in Bologna. Or, perhaps as the Team X group might have desired, open networks can be made evocative enough for memories to be achieved in them over time. Or, fragments of old buildings might be retained as tokens of memory while the overall building function and form is new, as in the cases in Boston where churches have been converted to apartments or restaurants. Or buildings can be restored according to a set date in the past while retaining the overall use theme of the past, as in Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. Or, a new tectonics of brick and steel can be used in a new building to register the memory of Nazi war camps, as in the Washington Holocaust memorial museum. Or the city can be built in "classical" form, as Krier would prefer, or the city can be made up of the "permanences" that Rossi advocates. Or the city can be built with allegiance to a multiplicity of past and present, such as creating a rapid turnover of buildings and places through temporary events or selective short-term zoning to contrast with longer- term presence: in all, a city where time is attended to as much as space is.
Fellingham. "To Continue."
Katsavounidou. "Invisible Parentheses: Mapping (out) the City and its Histories."
Halbwachs. The Collective Memory. pp. 128-157.
Lowenthal. The Past is a Foreign Country. Chapter 5, pp. 238-259.
Schama. Landscape and Memory.
Wieseltier. "After Memory."
Yates. The Art of Memory.