Space – Memory – Architecture

Memory is one of the most fundamental parts of all our lives. And as architect and students of architecture, space and architecture become our first point of thought and experimentation. Through this discussion we realize how closely these three are interlinked, and how they transform the way we create.

To understand and contemplate over this topic, we begin by looking at them through a simpler lens. We start off by defining what these words mean to us in the context of this discussion, and then further move on to looking at how they relate and affect one another.

First we look primarily at space, memory and the relation between the two.

Is space a part / fragment of our memories? And if it is what form does it take in our memories? Is there a common perception of memory? Or is it part of the individual domain?

Our perception of space in our memories & in reality is defined by not just the visual/ physical dimensions around us, but by various other aspects as well. The olfactory, auditory and tactile senses are also activated and are part of our spatial experience. After having defined the ‘experience of space’, we come to realize that space might not always be the most dominant part of a memory, but it is always intertwined with our memories.

Memory is primarily individual, as it relates to one’s own past. But, when memories have common strands / themes to them, they become shared/ collective, due to the human connection (of region/ context/ culture/ community/ race). Memory is also collective when it is passed on from one generation to another, from one human to another; integrated to become a part of their being. Thus, space also becomes a part of these collective memories. What’s interesting now is that not all collective memories of the same event are alike. They are all slightly different from one another, as a result of our personalities overlaying the memory; the unique lens through which we see the world.

Now, we add architecture into the conversation and look at how it fits into this scenario.

Architecture is essentially the deliberate creation of space. The act of deliberation is associated with the usage of our knowledge; which is in turn associated with memory, thus bringing it full circle.

But, there needs to be an understanding of that space/ memory, to transform it from an individual memory to the larger collective memory. Thus, memory has a role to play in the formation of architecture, but it isn’t all of it. What really acts as the fulcrum, and defines the architecture, is the ‘filter’ that we overlay, on the memory/ knowledge we have, to transform it.

This leads us to the question of if there’s a value we can add to the filter, to make the architecture more valuable. Or what kind of a filter would result in more holistic architecture, that goes beyond the basic programmatic needs that any data bank would be able to give solutions to?

The value here needs to be one that enhances the most obvious, yet intangible part of a memory -the human experience itself. The emotional/ sentimental side to human nature, the side that forms bonds and relationships, defines our experience of memory, space and architecture on a very fundamental level. Now, a ‘filter’ that could bring these aspects to light while looking at a memory, is that of Empathy. An answer so simple and straightforward, yet deep rooted in the human coexistence.

This ‘filter’ is human in its very nature. It is not perfect, not always accurate, and not the most efficient; but one that transcends the very black & white scope of view of a machine. It is what makes the most unforgettable of memories, the sublimity of spaces, and the kind of architecture that stays with us long after we leave it.

Memory is not just the imprint of the past time upon us. It is the keeper of what is meaningful for our deepest hopes and fears.                                                                                                                           ~Rollo May

by sra edu team

Featured illustration: sra edu team

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