UNSW Built Environment Architectural Studies: Boris To

6 10 2009

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My work is an example of where research and design intersect with each other. My research last semester focused on the interplay between history, memory, and architecture and contemporary heritage and conservation issues was my main focus. However, over this semester, I have progressed to investigating commemoration and memorialisation concepts and theories. Both conservation of historic remnants and construction of memorials are the most obvious and common architectural works to do with history and memory in our contemporary context, but no one so far has brought the two in co-examination.

The brief for my project was to design a memorial/monument in a site with great heritage significance in Paddington commemorate children and unborn babies in the Royal Hospital for Women back in the 1950s-1980s. The concept here is to reconfigure the ruins of the existing RHW wards from 1968 and to reintroduce an axis that existed before the wards were demolished in 1980’s in order to express the sense of lost and discontinued life. The axis is essentially an alleyway between demolished RHW wards, which now takes the form of a new walkway. It comfortably blends in with the existing geometry of the park, while the organisation of the ruins around the walkway evokes a presence of the demolished buildings. This is technique that combines both heritage and memorialisation principals.

Another feature of the design is the timber platform on the top of the memorial. As one enters of Brown Street, he/she descends down a ramp as part of memorial. This short walk will be phenomenal due to the redness of the new Japanese maple trees that starkly juxtaposes the large area of greeness from the existing vegetation. As one emerges from the ramp, the vegetation terminates, which allows the person’s view to open up and thus, emphasises the view of a distant masonry chimney – also a remnant of the RHW. The experience of the memorial constantly harks back to the history and memory of RHW.

The memorial is also highly interactive and evocative of personal memories. A short copper wall has etchings of messages from the parents of the lost children, and a veil of water constantly flows down the surface. This addresses authentic memories of the lost children. In addition the water the flows down the from copper wall/fountain streams down a crevie between two long, interlocking concrete forms allowing children and parents to dip their fingers into the water and their own personal images on the smooth concrete surface. These can be treated as ephemeral spontaneous shrines, which makes this memorial a vessel for anti-memorials.

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