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The Memorial Monument in Communities Affected by Ethnic Conflict

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Cristina Maria Leonte
Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism, Romania
The intention of this dissertation is to explain and relate the concepts of collective memory, ethnic conflict, intractable conflict, conflict transformation and forgiveness while presenting the historical evolution of the memorial monument. Moreover, it seeks for a definition of a solid theoretical framework by starting from general notions. These notions then undergo a process of particularization in order to detail and best explain the current situation in Northern Ireland in what memory study and forgiveness are concerned. This framework of concepts and realities is essential for conceiving a suitable approach towards the architectural design of a memorial within an area that is under the strong impact of an ethnic conflict.
While defining collective memory, the dissertation outlines a theoretical framework for the study of the dynamics of social relations between members of the community and between social groups in conflict.
The dissertation moves on to address the issue of memories about recent conflicts in Northern Ireland and shows that they are still active in the life of the community, which constitutes a difficult environment for ascertaining the propper approach towards designing a memorial that opens the path to past events.
The study of conflict transformation then links social studies and particularly memory studies to the peace building process. We learn that conflict is a natural process that despite violent actions should be regarded as a rightful attitude for all involved.
At this point in the paper we will have gone through an overview concerning the main concepts involved in the understanding of the current setting of a possible memorial in Northern Ireland.
The conclusion consists in a description of a practical attitude as to how this interdependency between collective memory and ethnic conflict materializes into architecture and the degree to which a memorial could be part of the solution to conflicts as well as be involved into a peaceful future for Northern Ireland.

Cristina Maria Leonte

on behalf of Cristina Leonte

Cristina Leonte's thoughtful work on conflicting memories is not only good, but painfully up-to-date in our part of the world, anyway.

I was very impressed about her knowledge of the subject, about her insights into the more general topic of how one remembers painful collective memories and how that memory contributes to community building - or not. The fact that she is looking into the issue of Norther Ireland might seem a bit strange to a British audience, but sometimes one has to look far away in order to understand things happening in your own backyard. And sometimes a fresh perspective comes from people who are not taking sides in a conflict (or in its memorialisation).

This, in a very complicated way, is in fact a paper on a strange kind of architecture. On the architecture of memory, to be more precise. Architecture of memory is a hot topic across Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, as we have a lot to remember and even more to find out (especially on local versions of Holocaust), to come to terms with (especially on Communism), and to memorialize (especially as many would rather forget). Nowadays, memorials tend to be public spaces with little sacredness imbedded in them; immaterial, more like augmented reality object, spaces or places; based on visual effects rather than built features: less rather than more.

I think that Cristina Leonte has what it takes to pursue her research into the not always friendly waters of remembering by ways pertaining to built environment and the arts. I hope she will continue her investigation into a PhD research. I also hope that the RIBA jury will appreciate her genuine enthusiasm, which is a prerequisite for any future researcher, architect or not.

Should you need any further comments, please feel free to contact me at


prof.Augustin IOAN, PhD

Dr Ioan Augustin
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