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Unintended Monuments -Re-establishing Erased Urban Memories through Denormalization

Part 2 Project 2013
Siu Tai, Sam Cheng
University of Hong Kong | China
Architecture is continually redefined by what happens on it over time. It evolves by witnessing events and embodying clues of the past as physical scars, images, myths, daily practices and so on. This thesis operates in sites of erased violent memories in Moscow, in an attempt to re-address unresolved and unjust issues to Muscovites and the global audience through commemorative events that are intimately informed in the physical environment, and would periodically catch media attentions.

The studied Moscow guerrilla attacks were initiated by Chechen separatists from 1995-2011. The physical clues of the sites to the past are deliberately erased by the Kremlin as a denial of the existence of deadly risks to Moscow people- an intended anonymity and achronicity in the city. The recurring bottom-up practices of commemoration become the only linkage of the city to its traumatic past. Such events constitute the primary framework for the re-establishment of erased urban memories- the cyclical revelation of clues of historical relevance of a site unexpected by the political authority: the Unintended Monuments.

Referencing to the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1895-1975) idea of Carnivalesque, the project explores the potential of how events give meaning and convert the understanding of a space despite its apparent anonymity. Temporal architectural operations are utilized as a tool to create events that reveal the hidden clues of a place to its past in accordance to the schedule of existing commemoration. Details of such instantaneous events are derived from the specificity of the location, time and facts of the incident.

This thesis creates anomaly to typical objects that we usually encounter- in a state of such banality that one could not even further normalize it. Instead of proposing another typical monument that may serve as a token of guilt in which the memory may slowly disappear due to unconscious habituation; a series of monuments that are activated cyclically and engage through personal participation may provide an alternative approach to monumentality closer to the operation of how the society remembers today.

Siu Tai, Sam Cheng


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