um so holy crap this thesis is due in 26 days. I started this whole M.Arch thesis endeavor six months ago. This being said, the first intent of this entry is to complain. 7 months is not enough time to work on a thesis! Oh well, that is the case so complaining stops here.

The next intent is to manage the theories/ideas I’ve been studying and developing, and see if they still correlate with the design. I have, of course, always been driven my thesis claim and its supporting literature while designing a physical object, but sometimes I do get wrapped up in the design and site alone.

So. Collective memory? From pretty early on, after a bit of trial and error, the idea of collective memory is what motivated my thinking. Why is that?

Well, I suppose it started with the realization that humans are extremely ephemeral, while built forms (specifically the monumental) are closer to permanent. There is therefore a huge tension between the persistence of a human and that of a building. This tension makes me uncomfortable, but I want to embrace it.

Now that this tension is recognized, how does one deal with it? It is a phenomenon that is more specific to urban areas. Aldo Rossi touched upon the idea of collective memory when talking about the collaging of the city in terms of layers of time, people, cultures, ideas. Buildings are permanent reminders that there were generations of living thinkers and events before our time. Sometimes we remember when…. Sometimes we hear stories passed down from our grandparents, and sometimes, we just sense it. This is the difference between history and memory. History is scientific. I believe memories and experiences can be sensed. Even if they must be constructed to some extent by the present being, the “memories” can be very much embodied in built forms.

Because humans and societal ideals are fleeting presences, the buildings that are left behind by them mean something different to the next generation of users. It is typical for a building to outlive the function for which it was originally designed. This process can be scaled up to the evolution of the city itself. The construction of buildings happens gradually, in a collaging manner. This notion of organic growth can be transposed to an entire street, square, or section within the city. One area that used to be vibrant might now be vacant or poses a completely different identity and vibe from when it was originally collaged together.

Given the inevitability that a building (and square, but for my purposes right now, lets just keep it on the building scale) will outlive the purpose for which it was originally designed, it is up to the next generation of users to make sense of it. A building that is no longer being used for its original purpose, that is no longer a product of the society in which it persists is, in essence, an artifact. How can this artifact be reabsorbed into the current-day context, while still respecting the collective memory that it embodies?

I suppose that last question is the most modified thesis question that I have. So I will ask it again, then answer it.

How can an architectural artifact be reabsorbed into the current-day context, while respecting the collective memory that it embodies? It can definitely be reworded. (is reabsorption a thing??) but that can be done at a different time.