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Writing Memory

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14 January, 2021

Architects have long drawn connections between memory and the work they produce. This conversation investigates three ways that memory shapes space – whether that is how, conceptually, it changes the ‘space’ of framework we ourselves have used to think about or know a certain work, as in the case of Denise Scott Brown; or whether it is through the use of pneumonic techniques that enable the reconstruction of a building, as Emma Letizia Jones shows us in the work of Frances Yates; or in the vivid and spatially charged language poetry of Lyn Hejinian.

Robert Fludd, Art of memory, ‘De praternaturali utriusque…’, Oppenheim, 1621. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY.

We asked:

  • What are the mechanisms for remembering?
  • What is the meaning of a real place?
  • How is ‘architecture’ manifest in the texts?

From Soane to the Strip is the lecture that Denise Scott Brown gave in 2018 when she was awarded the Soane medal. This lecture, which also exists online as a recording spoken by Denise, is essentially an autobiography of her life right up to the moment that Learning from Las Vegas, one of the key texts of twentieth century architectural education, was coming into fruition through her’s and Robert Venturi’s Penn studio.

From Soane to the Strip is the lecture that Denise Scott Brown gave in 2018 when she was awarded the Soane medal. This lecture, which also exists online as a recording spoken by Denise, is essentially an autobiography of her life right up to the moment that Learning from Las Vegas, one of the key texts of twentieth century architectural education, was coming into fruition through her’s and Robert Venturi’s Penn studio.

Frances Yates was a scholar who was embedded in the Warburg Institute in London. She was fascinated with the history of images and how images recur over time in order to give rise to culture. In that she was heavily influenced by the methods of Aby Warburg, the founder of the Warburg Institute. So, Frances Yates herself was fascinated with images and this led to the publication of many books. Three of her books – Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment and The Art of Memory (1966), attempted to chart the history of the art of memory, which was a rhetorical method first used by Cicero. The Art of Memory charts its history. However, it is also interesting for its architectural preoccupations, and this short talk focuses on the chapters in which Yates looks to Robert Fludd’s memory method in order to reconstruct the Globe Theatre.

My Life by American poet Lyn Hejinian is a book-length prose poem that was first published in 1980. Each section, or paragraph, corresponds with a year of her life. The first version consists of 37 paragraphs, each composed of 37 paratactic sentences, one for each year of her life at that time. My Life represents a breakthrough in that it questions the nature of autobiography and challenges the idea of memoir, re-evaluating what it means to call a piece of writing a life. It defines identity through a post-modern process of fragmentation and intense imagery. The following talk looks at three sections from My Life, which correspond with Hejinian at 21, 22, and 23 years of age. Just looking at the first parts of each paragraph illustrates the use parataxis, revealing the way it intensifies imagery and leaves space for speculation.

Question 1:
What are the mechanisms for remembering?

Question 2:

What is the meaning of a real place?

Question 3:
How is ‘architecture’ manifest in the texts?

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Writing Memory

Architects have long drawn connections between memory and the work they produce. This conversation investigates three ways that memory shapes space – whether that is how, conceptually, it changes the ‘space’ of fra...