The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War

The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War


By (author) Robert Bevan

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  • Publisher: Reaktion Books
  • Format: Hardback | 240 pages
  • Dimensions: 162mm x 234mm x 24mm | 680g
  • Publication date: 15 April 2006
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1861892055
  • ISBN 13: 9781861892058
  • Illustrations note: 80 b&w illustrations
  • Sales rank: 1,986,035

Product description

In times of conflict, buildings are inevitably damaged or destroyed. But there has always been another war against architecture: the destruction of the built artefacts of a people or nation as a means of cultural cleansing or division. In this war, architecture takes on a totemic quality: a mosque is not simply a mosque but represents the presence of a community. A library or an art gallery is a cache of cultural memory ? evidence of the reality of that community?s history that extends and legitimizes it in the present. Even office buildings may acquire powerful symbolic value: this was brought home with singular force by the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. In The Destruction of Memory, Robert Bevan examines both the effects of conflict on architecture over the last century and also examples throughout history: from the conflict between Islam and Hinduism in India and the razing of Aztec cities by Cortez to the Holocaust and the Chinese destruction of Tibetan Lhasa. A notable example from more recent times is the terrorist activities in the former Yugoslavia. Incidents discussed include the bombing of Dubrovnik; the destruction of the iconic bridge at Mostar; and the blackened leaves of priceless books floating down over Sarajevo after the National Library was shelled. Robert Bevan argues that these were not ?collateral damage?, as some might claim: they were deliberate acts of destruction, an attack not only on the architecture, but also the cultural memory of a nation.

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Author information

Robert Bevan is the former editor of "Building Design" and writes regularly on architectural, design, and housing issues for national newspapers. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

Review quote

"Bevan wisely doesn't push his case to the point of strict consistence; his weighting of the role of architecture in war is not absolutely uniform from case to case, nor does it need to be. . . . It is sobering to have so many apparent facts and figures in one book. . . . Where power belongs to the aggressor, the destruction of one family's home might be taken as the first embodiment of a genocide. In reminding us of this Bevan has performed a valuable service, no matter what we may think about a rebuilt Warsaw or a cherished ruin. . . . If we accept that there is no architecturally embodied identity of a nation or people, that our current historical existence is not vitally wrapped up in relics of an imagined past except as nostalgia, then we are unlikely to worry about the occasionally destruction of buildings. Bevan's book makes clear that such insouciance (and nostalgia) is the privilege of the secure and well-defended nation-states where the continuity of home and shelter is assumed."--"London Review of Books""" --Timothy Brittain-Catlin"Architectural Review" (06/01/2006)