MEMORIA Arquitectura Ciudad y Tiempo


               The constructive activity of man has always had an important relationship with memory, due to the desire that his activity be remembered as the author of unique works and, on other occasions, with the intention that what is built be the memory of an activity noticeable in the community. Special facts, notable events, relevant episodes of common history want to be remembered with the presence of architectures that perpetuate them in some way.

               The word monument, derived from the Latin monumentum that comes from monere (warn, warn, remember) and refers to that will to remember that the built has. The monument wants to arouse a collective emotion as a memory of that event to which it refers and to be the materialization of that common exercise of memory. And in turn “that collective emotion helps maintain the identity of an ethnic, religious, national or tribal community, with references to its past history, to the events that have been relevant to the community. The monument gives security, it connects us with previous times, lived by the community, with events that we consider part of our common history and that we value collectively”.

Sometimes these constructions have a clear memorial purpose, they are built as a reminder of an event, usually positive for the community. The triumphal arches commemorate victories of the army that want to be remembered as a common triumph and as recognition of the ruler who has directed the action at that time. Arches dedicated to a victorious general, usually with a central bay and two smaller lateral bays, forming a balanced and harmonic image.

The time of architecture.

Architecture is born at a certain time and therefore remains as a testimony of that moment, as a document that establishes a reference for the way of building. But this assessment of architecture as part of history that is valued and studied as part of that past has not always existed.

The ruins of old buildings often become quarries that provide the material for new constructions. It is only when they acquire a significance for the community that it is tried to be maintained and for this reason when Christians associate many of the Roman constructions with the presence of the first Christians who were martyred in them, the building acquires a new significance. Now they are a memory of the beginnings of the religious life of the community, of the effort of people who gave their lives to defend their beliefs and this will promote their conservation.

The social sensitivity that, little by little, is spreading due to the appreciation of historical heritage and the need for its conservation has social and legal consequences. The administration, at its different levels, must assume responsibility for its conservation and for this it will provide itself with the necessary legal instruments. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment there is a process of knowledge of the historical heritage, theories and methods have been developed for its conservation and theories that value this reality are presented. But we will have to wait until the 19th century for such lines of historical knowledge to crystallize in Europe in a new discipline, history, with an organic and full development in its methodology that is written, above all, from liberal-romantic and national coordinates.

Monuments as a memory of the past are admired and hated according to their significance and their relationship with the historical events to which they refer and Courbet, as a representative of the Commune, promotes the demolition of the Vendôme column in 1871, which he considers a symbol of Napoleonic imperialism. Monuments that continue to be related to the memory of a past and that are associated with certain events and collective experiences.

The memorial of the twentieth century.

The wars and destructions as a consequence of these, especially in the two world wars, and the different natural catastrophes make the community want to commemorate these events. And so throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, sculptures, commemorative buildings, constructions that want to be a memory of the events experienced were erected in numerous locations. Adolf Loos valued the monument as an authentic artistic expression and said: “There is only a small part of architecture that belongs to art: the funerary monument and the commemorative monument. Everything else, that which serves a purpose, must be excluded from the realm of art. Years before Mies, in 1922, Gropius had designed a monument of homage to those killed in the pustch Kapp erected in the main cemetery of Weimar, demolished in 1933 and rebuilt in 1946.

The memory of the July 7 attacks in London led to the construction of a Memorial that, according to the architects who designed it, had one objective: «to design something that would transmit a message to future generations, not only to the current generation, because all of them remember the events that took place basically through the media.” . The memorial resorts to abstraction as a language that best expresses the drama of the events it wants to commemorate. When events have a singular force, they refer to situations of special intensity, our reaction is essentially silence, a thunderous silence. And for this reason, the expression of this silence is found in the abstraction of geometry.

When Peter Eisenman presented his project for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe, many critics considered the project too abstract without providing any information about historical reality. “To overcome death is, then, to live in memory. That is why the horror that the outrage against his corpse arouses in the warrior… Death is a fact of the experience that the Homeric hero discovers in his world. The only possibility of overcoming it is to ensure that this individual fact is integrated into the collective space of fame, of the memory of men” .

The Memorial complex is made of large stone blocks located on a 19,000-square-meter site between East and West Berlin. The 2,711 rectangular slabs define an irregular space, located on a slightly sloping terrain, with differentiated dimensions although with similar widths and with changes in height and placement on the ground. The stones want to be like stelae, that ancient form of homage to the dead in different cultures. And for this reason he does not want to introduce specific references, avoiding names, physical data that relate them to people or places. Here there are no plates, inscriptions or religious symbols, the ability to evoke, the strength to produce sensations is in the abstraction of its elements. Between the slabs there are cobblestone paths so that it is possible to follow a series of paths that seem like itineraries of a labyrinth in which, given the equality and repetition of the slabs, one has a sense of loss and disorientation that wants to symbolize the feeling of the Jews during the Holocaust.

The Jewish Museum of Berlin designed by Libeskind wants to be, above all, an appeal to the memory lived by the Jews under Nazi persecution. The ensemble wants to present the tensions of Jewish-German history. And for this he also resorts to abstraction and spaces that break rationality, even in their traditional orthogonal straight forms to lead us to situations with different feelings. The voids or voids are hollow spaces endowed with a great emotional meaning, which run through the entire museum. Once again it is silence, the absence of symbols or habitual references that speak of extreme situations.

The ability to arouse emotions and memories means that the memorial can be a manipulated element, trying to evoke only the information that is wanted and present a partial and distorted story. The Valley of the Fallen in Spain is a fundamental example of this. Built to the greater glory of the dictatorship, with the work and effort of people loyal to the legitimate regime of the Republic, defeated in a civil war, it becomes the dictator’s mausoleum and exaltation of victory. Now there is a singular effort to convert the building into its meaning of reconciliation and memory of the authentic historical reality.

Memories that show feelings from different countries with plural events. Memorials in numerous places around the world that preserve the feeling of the community in the face of events that have damaged their lives and property. Events that unite and share the values ​​of humanity in very different locations and times. The Srebrenica Genocide Monument is a memorial and cemetery erected in remembrance of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croats.

The memory that wants to keep alive the memory, the actions of other moments that have been significant for the community. A path that began with the monument as a memory of certain events, of notable people who carried them out, which has been transformed over the centuries, becoming a historical monument due to its formal qualities and which returns as a memorial, a memory of tragic events. The dramatic events, with the presence of death and pain, invite remembrance and the memorials do so from abstraction and geometry that wants to arouse emotions more than references to concrete facts. A return to the monument as a memory, as a living presence of significant events for the community. The monument returns, now a memorial, which wants to be an instrument of memory and reconciliation.

Conferencia Asociacion Antopología