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Salisbury Archive

Part 1 Project 2012
Alejandro Sajgalik
University of Bath, UK
“Historicism offers the eternal image of the past; historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past.” Walter Benjamin

The city of Salisbury possesses a scattered, non-celebrated collection of documents. Presently the main archival collection is locked away inside a post industrial no man’s land in a distant county record office. Consequently, whether in the former or in the Cathedral complex itself, citizens' exposure to the root of things remains limited. Coincident with this we could argue that we occupy a societal mindset that is disenchanted; consumerism is perceived by the local council as a device to reinvigorate Salisbury, a city which is currently resigned to inhabiting its lost medieval glory. Understanding and communicating the links between its past and current cultural, institutional and technological systems will instead reaffirm the city as a key element in its region; rather than reducing its future development into a commercial veil obliterating the city. The archive engages with the Cathedral’s stance of self-preservation and bridges the gulf between sacred and secular as it grows out from the cloister’s grounds - an implant onto an isolated monument.

The experience of the visitors is intrinsically choreographed with their experience of the past through the use of various mechanisms. Firstly, the location of the archives within the building is based on a study entitled ‘semantic atlas’ where relationships amongst words are represented spatially through maps. Each individual archive contains a type of document, enabling psycho-geographies for visitors to build personal mental maps. Visual memory becomes a tool to develop narratives. Secondly, the building’s rising section indicates a progression into the most precious documents. Just as in a Gothic cathedral where the end chapel ceiling’s descends to the scale of the precious and the intimate. A series of thresholds from the subterranean entrance, into ramps and through colonnades constitute a journey from the city into the intimacy found in each reading room. Paying homage to the cathedral Spire’s construction techniques, a tour de force of 14th century ironwork, these spaces hint at the city’s unconditional collaboration between the clergy and profane workforce, testifying to the city’s authenticity.

Alejandro Sajgalik

Mr Martin Gledhill
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