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Memory Theatre, Cowgate, Edinburgh

Part 2 Project 2010
Ian Pollard
University of Dundee, UK
'Memory Theatre' is a contemporary proposal for a festival theatre located in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, within a former city block destroyed by fire in 2002. The site is currently occupied on an annual basis by Edinburgh Festival events. Memory Theatre imagines the site frozen at a specific point in time; in a half-ruined state where the new theatre structure becomes a support for the old fabric of the block, where the palimpsest of history is preserved intact, albeit in a somewhat unconventional manner.

'Memory Theatre' was the last in a series of 'architectural investigations' - design projects which explored and tested the hypotheses of a written thesis on the relationship between architecture and language.

Drawing on trans-historical influences from the explorations of sixteenth century scholars Giulio Camillo and Giordano Bruno in the 'ars memorativa', to post-modern conceptions of memory and the city as embodied in the work of Aldo Rossi, the project aims to encourage contemporary built space into interaction with the inertia of the material, and immaterial past.

It imports techniques of collage into the realm of architecture through the development of the 'exquisite corpse' drawing method, where drawn studies of historical 'types' are overlaid and employed as the generators for a new proposal. The architectural type explored in this case is the theatre as an 'open circle'; an arrangement which is in reference to the works of renowned theatre director Peter Brook.

The ultimate aim was an extended investigation into the possibilities of meeting the poetic with the quotidian; or even the practical. It is an exercise in which architecture is itself the means of inquiry, with drawing as a research mechanism, and where the conventions of architectural process are questioned and redefined.

Ian Pollard

This project was the final act in a series of investigations into the relationship between architecture and language. It comments on the place of theatre in contemporary culture.

It began as an investigation into the nature of performance and the spoken word. The study considered the relationship between performance and audience and how architectural space might facilitate, and begin to embody that relationship. The project developed as an investigation into the history of theatre and theatre typology, and resulted in a serious, credible, but still poetic proposition for a structure in the city.

Ultimately the proposal is a modest intervention, deliberately temporary in nature. It is intelligent, considered and careful in its attitude to both context and programme.


Fergus Purdie
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