The [ ]struction of memory

Sarah Kia (website)
Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design
Thesis Project
Brief: A Terrain for Collection & Recollection
Faculty: Jim Bassett (website), Chris Pritchett


The inquiry of Memory begins in Tehran, Iran, a place where the past- at the mercy of cyclically oppressive regimes-has been too close to being forgotten. This thesis considers the imperative need for collective remembering. The binary nature of the investigation explores two modes of remembering: individual remembering and collective remembering through the act of collecting. Much of this study explores the role of provisional and changing hierarchical systems as a means to hold ostensibly dissimilar parts together in a new whole.

The Garden of Individual Remembering

below-grade terrain for the collection and recollection of Memory

The Garden of Individual Remembering is an open-archive curated by the public, for the public, for the deposition and preservation of memory. Public participation transforms this cultural exploration of the past to a reflective journey through the present: allowing all of time- past, present, future, to surface onto one experiential plane. Visitors who store their artifacts within the walls of the Garden may contribute to the growing collection of the ICR Archives: providing researchers at the ICR with a vast resource of collective material history. Rotating exhibitions are frequently comprised of these artifacts.

Existing Site Conditions: Forgotten Foundations

The forgotten foundation serves as the basis for the study of remembering. Construction began on a high-rise hotel at the intersection of of Hejab Street and Kesharvaz Boulevard- but work ceased after the foundation was poured.

Mass To Hold A Light Infrastructure

Sleeves at varying depths are slipped into the extrusion of the foundation grid: providing containers for the deposition of Memory + artifacts. The concept of circulation is clear- a central order is established, though provisional, and offered is a range of secondary space systems (like tributaries of a river) beneath its depths to provide a terrain to meander comfortably and with ease.

Every view port entices you to happen upon a new room to discover: by definition, the Memory Garden is a Zen Garden, hiding and revealing simultaneously in an act of exploration.

Each view, fragmentary as it was, opened obliquely onto another and then still others. And if the opening was not toward a new setting, it was toward a new aspect of a setting that had been seen previously (Leatherbarrow).

Precast concrete modules sit into the steel framework that slips into the voids of the extruded mass. Marble, a precious material, seams the precast units together. The archaic sound of stone rubbing against stone resonates when accessing the vaults.

The Act of Collecting

We don’t often consider collecting as a means of remembering. Through collection, that is- the removal of an object from its original context to create a series- it is possible to create something new. The act of collecting enables us with the ability to reframe context. Once objects are removed from their original context it is possible to create an entirely new composition. For a place like Tehran, Iran, this mode of remembering makes it possible to remember the past in a sensitive way.

The Institute for Collective Remembering (ICR)

A public educational facility [research, archive, +exhibition] for the faculty of Memory, Material Historians, Anthropologists, and the like

The ICR collects, preserves, and most importantly- renders accessible the material related to the social and cultural history of Iranians in Tehran. The campus is comprised of two buildings: 1. Garden of Individual Remembering (below-grade) 2. ICR Archives + Exhibition (above)

Light Infrastructure to Hold the Mass[es]

Turning Section Into Plan

A wrapping of program at varying scales creates opportunities to simultaneously hide and reveal the nature of one to the other. Archivists can simultaneously research and curate the collections while visitors experience them.


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