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Healing Public Memory: Memorial spaces in a Democratic South Africa

Part 2 Dissertation 2012
Raz Rahmani
University of Kent, UK
Public memorial buildings represent the power and authority of a community, while also being held responsible for conveying influential messages to those who visit them. Memorials are commonly created from personal and collective memory but often buildings that represent diverse populations tend to become biased according to the recollection of specific communities. Cultural differences play a large role in the numerous ways societies deal with remembrance. Political and economic circumstances also have an impact and are variable factors, for this reason it would be challenging to ever consider a blueprint for the design and form of memorials.
The dissertation examines the role that architecture has to play in remembering South Africa’s oppressive Apartheid regime. A selection of iconic public buildings and spaces situated in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town were the main focus of this investigation, together with how their architectural forms are intended to affect the local community and visitors. A common factor apparent in all the chosen case studies is that the original use of the spaces contributed to and supported the Apartheid regime.

Memory, culture and history are deep-rooted factors that have had a monumental impact on everyday life in South Africa. The aim was also to investigate the progress made to reduce the deep social and spatial divisions there and to identify the relationship between built form and social circumstances. The examples of memory space discussed reveal how spatial design and architectural form can convey policy and assist in the construction and revision of existing narratives.

What became evident through the course of this discussion is the significant role that memory space plays in construction of the local identity and its capacity to shape contemporary notions of the past. The case studies presented suggest that architecture is a powerful tool in the construction of national narratives for space has the power to inform both individual and collective perspectives on the past. This contributes to notions of national identity which in turn can affect both individuals and communities relationships with one another.

Raz Rahmani

Raz Rahmani

Manolo Guerci
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