London Festival of Architecture 2017: Memory & the City debate

On Tuesday 27th June leading practising architects and academics will debate Memory & the City, an event as part of the London Festival of Architecture. 

Two academics specialising in collective memory studies and two practising architects and urban designers giving their views on how collective memory, identity and design relate to one another.  

The debate will discuss how we use memory in architecture and urban design to connect with the communities for which we build.  Cities are laden with memory.  It is not just the memories of our own.  The memories of generations come down to us through places and buildings.  Some of these are deliberate attempts to keep alive records of the past, such as monuments or museums, and some simply hold the memories of past designers and users.  It is the combination of these memories that gives the historic city its richness and depth of meaning.  They are all around us and are our heritage, bringing together community and physical identity.  


Download a pdf copy of speakers and their debate topics

Speakers and their debate topics announced:

Professor Karen Till

Professor of Geography at Maynooth University. Her geo-ethnographic research examines the significance of place in personal and social memory, and the ongoing legacies of state-perpetrated violence. Karen’s curatorial work invites local experts, artists, scholars and publics to explore how creative practices might enable more responsible and sustainable approaches to caring for places, shared environments and cities. She is Director of the MA in Geography, the Space&Place Research Collaborative, and founding co-Convener of the Mapping Spectral Traces international network of artists, practitioners and scholars. Most recently, she convened MST8: The Place of the Wound. Publications include The New Berlin: Place, Politics, Memory (2005), Mapping Spectral Traces (2010), Textures of Place (2001) and Walls, Borders and Boundaries (2012). Karen’s book in progress, Wounded Cities, highlights the significance of place-based memory-work and ethical forms of care at multiple scales that may contribute to creating more socially just futures.

Memory and the recovery of the wounded city

Memory is important to how we understand the city in a media and consumer society that increasingly compresses time and collapses space.  In this talk, I explore the role of body memory, place memory, and urban remnants in cities "wounded" by legacies of institutional racism, colonialism and injustice. The "work" of memory and place-based practices of residents, artists and activists living in these cities highlight the complex and contingent ways that the spatial and temporal are always interwoven, and provide a rich ground for alternative visions of the city.


John Stevenson

Former Head of Architectural Design at the Oxford School of Architecture with extensive involvement in professional and architectural education.   Member of the Oxford Preservation Trust Heritage Panel, the Oxford Preservation Trust Environmental Awards Panel, Director, Magdalen Road Artists’ Studios, Oxford, Trustee, Paul Oliver Vernacular Architecture Library Oxford.  The theme of ‘embodied memory’ has been central to his architectural studio teaching and lecturing, derived from an interest in the Washington DC Mall and its associated museums and national memorials.

Memory and architectural design: contrasting responses.

The Schloss Palace development in Berlin is a recreation of a lost historic memory and an attempt to erase the memory of the 1970s communist-regime building.   The Reconciliation Chapel in Berlin is a modern building that transfers the memory of a lost church and reinterprets reconciliation for the modern condition.  The Ground Zero memory site is one of the most important recent attempts to preserve the memory of a national disaster in built form. 

Professor Wendy Pullan

Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies and Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge. She was Principal Investigator for 'Conflict in Cities and the Contested State’, an international and multidisciplinary research project based in the UK and funded by the ESRC’s Large Grants Programme, and is now Director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research. Professor Pullan has published widely on European and Middle Eastern architecture and cities, examining the processes of urban change, both historical and contemporary. She has advised on issues to do with urban uncertainty and Middle Eastern conflicts, especially Jerusalem, including reports and briefing papers for Chatham House, the UN and various NGOs. She received the Royal Institute of British Architects‘ inaugural President’s Award for University-Led Research for work on Conflict in Cities. Her recent publications include: Locating Urban Conflicts (2013), The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places (2013) and Architecture and Pilgrimage 1000-1500: Southern Europe and Beyond (2013). She is a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.

Memory and memorialisation: an inexact relationship

Memory is integral to how cities are perceived and understood. On the other hand, urban memorialisation is an attempt to commemorate events and ideas in ways that resonate with the population. Architecture sits, precariously, at the convergence of the two. As our cities become more diverse, so do our urban narratives, bringing about both richness and conflict – not always in equal measure. Increasingly we ask whose memories do we memorialise, and to what end? In investigating new examples of memorialisation in Europe and the Middle East I consider questions of urban identity and participation and the ambiguities that arise in the difficult task of making memory concrete.


Robert Adam

Robert Adam has practised in the city of Winchester since 1977 and co-founded Winchester Design in 1986, now ADAM Architecture.

He works on a diverse range of projects including major private houses, extensions to historic buildings and public and commercial buildings. He is visiting professor of urban design at Strathclyde University, has 20 years’ experience in masterplanning and has pioneered objective coding. Robert is well-known in the UK and internationally as a major figure in the development of traditional and classical architecture, as a pioneer of contextual urban design, a designer of furniture, an author and a scholar. He lectures widely in the UK and abroad and has undertaken lecture tours of the USA, Russia, China, Iran and Brazil.

His work is widely published, broadcast and exhibited. He has written numerous historical, critical and theoretical papers and his books include: Classical Architecture: a complete handbook (1990); Buildings by Design (1994); The Globalisation of Modern Architecture (2012); and Classic Columns (2017) an edited collection of his articles and papers.

Old and new memory in urban design.

Memory as a consideration in urban design with a case study of heritage as memory in the creation of a new development.  The case study is the design of a new urban area out of an old barracks and changes in the significance and context of the existing memories and monuments. The bureaucratic process that manages and controls these memories for the benefit of the community will be discussed with a discussion about which community memory is represented by these controls.

George Saumarez Smith

One of the leading classical architects of his generation. Much of his inspiration comes from an appreciation and study of historic buildings, combined with a high level of classical literacy.  He has received various awards for his work, including from the RIBA, the Sunday Times and four awards from the Georgian Group. George qualified as an architect in 1998 and has been a Director of ADAM Architecture since 2004.  George is passionate about measuring and drawing historic buildings and his work has been exhibited and published widely, both in the UK and abroad. He also regularly teaches, lectures and writes on a wide range of subjects relating to traditional architecture.

Memory and the Classical Orders

The Classical Orders were, for over 2000 years, the basis of Western Architecture. From their earliest development in Antiquity the Orders were used to express cultural meaning and can be seen as embodiments of collective memory. Three recent projects, all using the Classical vocabulary, will be discussed around the themes of Living Memory, Cultural Memory and Physical Memory.