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London, David Adjaye, London Design Museum

Constructions of Collective Memory: David Adjaye - Making Memory

Is there such a thing as shared memory? The works of French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs form the theoretical foundation for what is known as “collective memory” - the supposition that a group is capable of shared remembrances. But how does collective memory work?  A possible answer is that a culture of memory functions by means of built culture: memorabilia captured in architecture and other urban structures.

London’s Design Museum has devoted the current one-man show Making Memory by David Adjaye to this question. The underlying theme of the exhibition is understanding architecture and memory as concepts that are semantically linked and that emerge in the spatial present. The opening features a similar design. Pyramids and monuments serve as introductory examples of scenes of remembrance. Underscored by primarily dark display walls and atmospheric music, seven projects selected by David Adjaye highlight historical reference points that lie beyond national borders.

The National Cathedral of Ghana reminds visitors of Adjaye’s own biography. The Gwangju River Reading Room, which was conceived with writer Taiye Salasi, memorializes the Gwangju Uprising of May 1980. Pivotal moments in African-American history are captured in the Smithsonian National Museum and the Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Memories of world history are processed in the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre and the Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory. Detailed Models, photographs, sketches and video interviews provide additional information about each project. A true-to-life section of the Sclera Pavilion enables immersive consideration of the exhibition’s theme, which is not an easy one. Despite its difficulty, it comes through with astoundingly few words as it lets the powerfully eloquent architecture speak for itself.

 

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