The Physical Relocation of Cultural Memory and the Political Dislocation of History through Architecture

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Buildings and the sites they occupy are structures which encapsulate complex phenomena. Some architects employ processes of de- and re-contextualisation of the urban tissue as a means of challenging accepted perceptions of cities. These are attempts at the reclaiming of public space, or freeing it as a location for a multiplicity of spontaneous, inter-cultural activities and possibilities of self-actualisation. Through such a process one could become involved in a kind of regressive attempt to restructure a given schema which lapses back into a repeat of historical western archetypes.

Using deconstruction as an investigative tool, this paper will illustrate the importance of Architecture as a means of re-addressing history and memory, on a given site having undergone a process of political dislocation of history. One project (case study) in each of the following cities will be examined to illustrate how the deconstruction of a site and its structures could create either continuity or discontinuity of culture and history:

1. In Berlin – The Matter of the Castle (Original Title in German: Schloss als Materie). The project is an M.Arch thesis which was concluded by Alexander Opper at the University of the Arts in Berlin in 2001.

2. In Johannesburg - New Heritage Square Project - part of the broader Kopanong Precinct, proposed in 2004 by the architect Fanuel Motsepe of NOA Architects.

In the final analysis, this paper will attempt to demonstrate that interventions can have the effect of individuals engaging more consciously with the spaces and everyday situations which make up their cities.

Keywords: Interventions, De-Contextualisation, Re-Contextualisation, Relocation, Dislocation, Deconstruction, Public
Stream: Art and Human Rights
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Alexander Opper

3rd Year Coordinator, Design, Department of Architecture
Faculty of Art
Design and Architecture (FADA), University of Johannesburg

South Africa

Architect, trained in South Africa and Berlin. Currently practicing as an architect and teaching architecture in Johannesburg.

Originally from South Africa. Spent three years completing a Bachelor of Architectural Studies at the University of Cape Town (1991 - 1993). Worked in the office of Ora Joubert, Architect, from 1994 - 1995. Departed for Berlin in 1995. Worked in numerous architectural practices in Berlin from 1995 -1997. Completed a Master of Architecture degree with distinction, at the University of the Arts (UdK) between 1997 and 2001. The title of the Master Thesis was: The Matter of the Castle (Original German Title: Schloss als Materie). This thesis was nominated for the Best Thesis of the Year Award (the so-called Max Taut Prize). Worked as a project architect on the exhibition architecture for the Documenta 11 exhibition in Kassel, Germany in 2002 (for Kuehn Malvezzi Architects). Returned to South Africa in 2005 to realise first independently built work (the One Megabyte House). The above project was published in 2007, internationally in Bauwelt, and in South Africa, in the Architecture S.A. (The journal of the South African Institute of Architects). Worked in the offices of Paragon Habitat Architects from 2006 – 2007. Assumed a lecturing position as 3rd Year coordinator in the Department of Architecture (Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture) at the University of Johannesburg, in 2007. Currently preparing to register for a PhD (investigating the relationship between architecture and cultural memory).

Ref: A07P0111