Hornstein’s Losing Site – who knew there was more to architecture than maths?

I’ve only read the introduction and chapter two of Shelley Hornstein’s Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place and already I found myself re-evaluating my misconception of the word architecture. Sure, my bias is towards its association with the maths, geometries, planes and angles, trigs, inaccuracies, a.k.a the death of me. But never did I believe the word architecture could also be identified by the intangible, omniscient presence of memory?

Hornstein defined architecture as the “mapping of space – physical, mental or emotional.” It is the act of “delineating” and shaping space to basically carve a place. What I enjoyed in her piece is this fact: the inseparability of memory and place, wherein the architecture can exist or be found beyond the physical site itself in our recollection of it. I, for one concur with this conclusion. If you were to ask me about my childhood, the first thing I will respond with is where it took place and what memory I have that accompanies that particular place. You just cannot divorce that fact at all.

In my personal reflection, I find out many new things. Pinterest and Tumblr are two social sites I am heavily invested in for their clean interface and availability for photographic collation without harassing my tabs with various online portfolios that are, almost always, ebbed with personal stories that, don’t get me wrong, are fascinating, but not so much as something that I would like to entertain. At certain times, sure, but Pinterest and Tumblr is a pool for photographs of places.

I follow various blogs posting photographs of places around the world that I could only ever have dreamed of. And as a photographer, they give each photograph their own sense of self, their signature in the angles, the iSO, aperture-use. And what I am absolutely fascinated with, and what I value in my creative endeavours, is how I myself, though I have not been to any of these photographed places, could somehow give meaning to each place. It’s as if I’m accessing a part of my memory. I’d like to call it the creative memory which is not exactly a tangible, experience-based memory based on an absolute fact, but it still counts as memory nonetheless as, in accessing it, you feel as if it’s been there all along.

The photographs of buildings, cracks on walls, a lonely chair in a classroom abandoned after the attack on Hiroshima. It has a broken leg. These photographic monuments “encourages our reflection in the present.” What does these mean to us now? How do we connect the real events of the past to the present now? Because obviously, the past is an opaque surface, and history tells us that it is usually the winners who erect shrines of remembrance for themselves, right?

I find that places hold deep, special meanings not just to the people who have experienced them first-hand or have some sort of connection to it with a family-tragedy or historic affiliation. I believe that we ourselves can give meaning to these architectural sites whether we do so through empathy or pure reverence. And in my creative endeavour, I would like to explore this more.