Architecture, Memory, Urban space, Erasure, Chicago
Our thesis ambitions are centered around the investigation of memory and architecture as it relates to the narratives of erasure in urban space. Over the course of the academic year, we are seeking to use architecture as a lens to critique our current socio-political climate regarding gender inequity and political regression. Our site of speculation and research will be the city of Chicago, as it has a rich history of feminism and civil rights with many historic spaces of protest that accommodated intersectional identities and historic protests. In today’s political climate, where Roe v. Wade is facing reversal in the Supreme Court and LGBT protection laws are being contested, school districts are the most segregated they have been since before Brown v. Board, and there is a tendency to forget the progress that has been made, we must recall speciﬁ c instances of memory of Second Wave Feminism and Civil rights when women made strides for LGBT legal protection, female bodily autonomy, opposition to sexual violence, and sexual liberation, and black Americans made strides against systemic oppression and segregation.
Using this research, we aim to propose a spatial critique of our socio-political climate by employing Rossi’s interpretation of the “The Architecture of the City”, Edward Hollis’s “Memory Palace”, and Colson Whitehead’s “Underground Railroad”, re-imagining historical spatial narratives within the current urban fabric of Chicago, actively reinforcing the memories of trauma and activism onto an alternative network of counter-memorial-inspired spaces. Using the idea of the “Memory Palace”, in which the metaphorical recesses of the mind (the ‘loci’) were spatialized in an internal layout of a room to create a manifestation of personal memory, and the idea of the ‘Memory Theater’, we want to outwardly impose the collective memory of erased narratives onto the city’s existing infrastructure and create a network of ‘memory containers’-- interconnected spaces for consuming and imposing forgotten memories. Doing so will provide a lens into the past and demand that un-represented histories are not forgotten or reversed.
We are identifying Chicago as a city with historic memory that is more related to a generic national identity that the actual intersectional local narratives that existed and continue to exist within it—or, at the most, a city committed to self-lobotomization, the erasure of its own memory. We understand Chicago as lacking a speciﬁ c or intersectional, the local form of memory that represents the diverse narratives of social progress that it has actively housed for decades. We seek to identify and consolidate these memories. We want to pose the celebration of the collective memory of narratives that are otherwise underrepresented or erased within the urban fabric.
The historic events which we hope to contain and memorialize are as follows: the history of the Jane Collective and their work that opposed the illegality of abortion and women’s bodily autonomy before the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests which resulted in the ‘Chicago 8’ arrests and subsequent protests that were inspired by public opposition to the Vietnam War, and the 1953 school segregation protests that were endorsed by Martin Luther King Jr. that resulted in over 200,000 students and adults standing in solidarity to oppose unfair overcrowding and segregation of black public schools.
We want to deploy memory containers and manipulated contextual architectural objects and spaces, rather than sculptures or monuments, as containers of collective, civic memory. Working in aggregate, the containers transform these 3 events into an urban fabric of memory. These interventions will behave as a narrative-network, where collective, civic memories become programmatic elements, forming a superimposed narrative on the historic city. The Containers are not individually-conceived objects or spaces, but in composite, they communicate encyclopedic imagery of Chicago as well as the erased narratives of the 3 events that we are seeking to remember.
The assemblage of the Containers on a given site generates a new civic condition: using the Containers as acupunctural elements, the superimposed memory infrastructure weaves into Chicago’s existing urban conditions. The Containers layer, collage, and reinforce architectural, historical, and typological references onto the site. The Memory Containers exist as an alternate infrastructural network for consuming and re-imposing the erased memory of the city and the U.S. as a whole.
Munoz, Isabel and Quinn, Sarah, "Spatializing Erasure: Counter-Histories on the Verge of Disappearance" (2019). Architecture Thesis Prep. 379.
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