MArch Architectural Studies School of Architecture

Canan Isik

Embodying Memory 

‘How does an architect find ways to embody memory in the city?’

As an abstract topic for explanation, memory is an integral part of human life since it is derived from every experience we have. Each experience is collected in the people’s minds individually. Most of the time, people think that memory is based on history, but memory is not a particular result of people’s lives, cities, and artworks. Memory is experienced as a task and not as a spontaneous event as it has been transformed throughout history. Thus, memory is not simply a collection of moments; it is also a collection of personal histories. It is necessary for the survival of humanity since it is proof of the existence of humans. The collected memory has a unique hierarchical system. Many philosophers have thought about the unique recording system throughout history because the unique hierarchies create people’s perspectives and psychological backgrounds. In his research, Henri Bergson thinks about individual memory and different types of memories. According to him, memory is a multi-layered output, which is a result of human experience in the world, such as place, time, movement, and imagination. Understanding that memory has evolved in our lives and societies can provide insight into what memory means in the past and present. Notably, Gilles Deleuze thinks on how notions affect memory and memory recording because he thinks the recorded or reconstructed memory is called memory-image-the notion of memory image is directly related with imagination and experience of the moment. While focusing on the experience, the notion of embodied memory and place should be answered clearly. Maurice Merleau-Ponty is a philosopher who studies memory and architecture. He thinks bodily experience is the primary source of the collected memory because people can understand the world with their embodied experience. The experience is a bridge, and it comes from the abstract sensation between embodiments. Therefore, the experience has become a reality in the place which has a significant role in the embodiment of memory. According to the concept of place, it is a distinct location where specific activities occur at specific times. There is more to a place than its physical location; it also reflects human experience. The experience in the place gives a sense of place for answering the detailed relationship. There is a sense of place, a specific understanding that comes from a strong connection with each form’s geographical location. Therefore, observers can connect more deeply with this place due to its apparent sense of identity. Based on all available information, this thesis attempts to provide an answer to the research question, ‘How does an architect find ways to embody memory in the city?’. The question needs mainly philosophical and architectural research from the literature review and case studies. First, embodied memory is multi-layered, and there are many factors that affect the action. The factors should be understood, and the relationship with each other should be explained clearly. On the other hand, the actor is the architect, who needs to find a design methodology to find an answer structurally.

Literature Review 

The literature review helps determine the relationship between memory and place from architectural and philosophical contexts. The research question aims to answer how an architect can embody memory in a city that needs to answer an act of embodiment and embody a place. The other important point is defining the embodied memory from architectural and philosophical contexts. This thesis attempts to fill in the gaps in the academic research by providing some answers that are based on existing knowledge. Therefore, the selected chapters Place, Sense of Place, Memory, and Embodied Memory includes theories, opinions and information by selected architects, artists, philosophers, and thinkers which are Juhani Pallasma, Donlyn Lyndon, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, Edward Casey, and Christine Boyer.

Case Studies 

The second chapter examines different was to embody memory in different places through case studies. To understand how abstract concepts manifest spatially and acquire properties. it is essential to understand how these diverse perspectives offer different design methodologies. The first case study is Understand Wells and Tunnels, designed by the artist Alice Aycock: the inspirational sculptures follow the experience narrative physically. The second one is Pars de la Villette by Bernard Tshuma. The third orre is Victim by John Heiduk. The studies focus on how architecture and the space leave lasting impressions on individuals. becoming integrated into their memories and experiences. In addition. the case studies evoke all the senses. which makes the user more aware of their surroundings and leaves a lasting impression. All the questions and ways try to make out how an embodied memory could be experienced in these design projects and which lavers or factors support embodying memory.


The third chapter Discussion’, focuses on outcomes from the literature review and case studies. The outcomes reveal keywords and results from the literature review and case studies. The data from the literature review and case studies are matched and compared to understand deep knowledge on how embodied memory works. The discussion follows three ways to analyse the literature review and case studies. These are a discussion of the literature review, discussion of case studies and studying the two outputs together on a common ground. Finding the common concepts and ideas aids in answering the research question, ‘How does an architect find ways to embody memory in the city?’. On the other hand, this part directs us to think about how the controversial abstract concepts mentioned in previous parts can be designed as three-dimensional in the city and how the case studies that have been analysed can be thought over again.