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Rachael Crabtree

MA work

Dissertation: ‘Remembering is only possible on the basis of forgetting’: Architecture and Memory within the Context of Destruction, 1940–2010

The aerial bombardment of Britain during the Second World War left a legacy of destruction that had a lasting impact upon architecture in the following years. This dissertation investigates the relationship between memory and destruction in three examples of post-war architecture.

An attempt at reconciliation with the past was seen in Coventry Cathedral. In the decision made in the 1950s to preserve its bomb-ravaged ruins, the past is remembered in order to forgive, but can this be achieved architecturally? The Tricorn Centre, a 1960s multi-use megastructure in Portsmouth, was built on a former bombsite. This structure eliminated the memory of the Blitz to such an extent that the past was forgotten, and the cycle of destruction continued when the Tricorn itself was demolished in 2004. The design of Robin Hood Gardens, a Brutalist housing estate in East London, has its roots in post-1945 architectural reconstruction, but has been controversial since its completion in 1972. In the debate over whether it should now be demolished, the question arises over what should be remembered in architecture, and who has the right to control this?

Setting these studies in a wider theoretical framework on architectural ruination, and observations on the language of damage, the relationship between remembering, forgetting and destruction is examined. When damage and destruction are factored into an understanding of design, the past can be forgotten, but not entirely. In its modernity and future orientation, post-war architecture becomes a marker of its own deeply troubled history.

Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2010

  • Dissertation: ‘Remembering is only possible on the basis of forgetting’: Architecture and Memory within the Context of Destruction, 1940–2010

    The aerial bombardment of Britain during the Second World War left a legacy of destruction that had a lasting impact upon architecture in the following years. This dissertation investigates the relationship between memory and destruction in three examples of post-war architecture.

    An attempt at reconciliation with the past was seen in Coventry Cathedral. In the decision made in the 1950s to preserve its bomb-ravaged ruins, the past is remembered in order to forgive, but can this be achieved architecturally? The Tricorn Centre, a 1960s multi-use megastructure in Portsmouth, was built on a former bombsite. This structure eliminated the memory of the Blitz to such an extent that the past was forgotten, and the cycle of destruction continued when the Tricorn itself was demolished in 2004. The design of Robin Hood Gardens, a Brutalist housing estate in East London, has its roots in post-1945 architectural reconstruction, but has been controversial since its completion in 1972. In the debate over whether it should now be demolished, the question arises over what should be remembered in architecture, and who has the right to control this?

    Setting these studies in a wider theoretical framework on architectural ruination, and observations on the language of damage, the relationship between remembering, forgetting and destruction is examined. When damage and destruction are factored into an understanding of design, the past can be forgotten, but not entirely. In its modernity and future orientation, post-war architecture becomes a marker of its own deeply troubled history.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art and Architecture, University of Reading, 2008