“Architecture has the power to move and engage, to evoke memory and suggest interpretations.” 1
A memorial is the physicality to a place of remembrance; a place where people honour events and individuals, and in doing so are informed and come to an understanding of the past.2 In this way memorials play a role of representing. The presence of a memorial allows for a public place of commemoration, “nurturing the basic human need to live in time and recognizable place.”3 To live in someone else’s time with whom you have a continuity.
The dissertation is concerned with the architecture of memorials. My line of enquiry will be addressing memorials as architecture that is primarily concerned with the relationship between representation and beholder response. How memorials do this is very topical. Due to the highly interpretive nature of memorials, the aim is sufficiently broad enough to include several avenues of investigation which address the design, the intentions and interpretations behind it, and perception. Within this context, response can be provoked by the design by both physical and psychological means. By approaching specific design ideas, with an awareness of how people may respond in a psychological context, through emotional stimuli, the dissertation addresses the ‘cause and effect’ that design ideas and processes can provoke.
Representation and symbolism are traditional components of memorials that have found new forms in contemporary design. Another element, the haptic perception, is related to the multi-sensory experience of architecture. Merleau-Ponty emphasises the simultaneity of experience and sensory interaction as: “My perception is therefore not a sum of visual, tactile and audible givens. I perceive in a total way with my whole being. I grasp a unique structure of the thing, a unique way of being, which speaks to all my senses at once.”4
The architecture of memorials is constantly being critiqued. This may be due to the change in both the role of the memorial in society and the design concepts employed by the architects. The dissertation is concerned with the latter. Namely, how these design concepts are approached and adopted by the memorial ‘type’. The objective of the dissertation is to bring to light how architecture can move and engage us by studying the memorial as architecture at its most removed from its utilitarian basis.
1 Justine Clark, (ed) “Memory and Interpretation,” Architecture Australia 92, no5 (September – October 2003), 43.
2 Marc Kristal, “Memory Work,” in Raymond W Gastill and Zoe Ryan (ed) Open: New Designs for Public Spaces, (New York: Van Alen Institute, 2004), 92.
3 Janet Laurence and Peter Tonkin, “Space and Memory: A Meditation on Memorials and Monuments,” Architecture Australia no 5 (September – October 2003), 49.
4 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, cited in, Juhani Pallasmaa, “Hapticity and Time: Notes on Fragile Architecture,” Architectural Review 207, no 1239 (May 2000), 78.