The Infrastructure of Memory

October 9, 2018

“The Monument of a memory, you tear it down in your head”

– F. Welch

 

Considering a broader definition of infrastructure allows a clearer understanding of our cities as complex interconnected structures. Infrastructure refers to the structure underneath, to the devices that supports human and non-human life. Architecture is often portrayed as this autonomous act, yet in most contexts relies heavily on the presence of infrastructure. From basic utilities such as water and electricity, to public transport systems and roads. Architecture is often at the interface between infrastructure systems and its users.

Our cities, their infrastructure and their buildings have most often been designed and built by men. Historically, architecture is very much linked to the masculine gender. Cities are dense with layers of meaning and memory, a physical representation of history. Our cities specifically remember certain members of society. Through the dedication of churches, the naming of streets and the erection of monuments. Throughout Stockholm there are countless statues and memorials dedicated to various people and events. They are often seen individually, in a park or dotted along the waterfront. However when they are read collectively they could be considered as an infrastructure of memory.

This infrastructure of memory is easily found to be a gendered one. It celebrates and remembers predominantly men more than women. Kings who won wars, invaded countries and oppressed cultures and communities. Great inventors and playwrights. Our cities still remember these individuals. Monuments and memorials act as physical affirmations of these people or events, but specifically of the version chosen to be remembered. In time our attitude and conception of these memories changes along with the identity of the city. People who were once celebrated, are no longer considered in such a favourable light. Importantly this infrastructure fails to represent the diversity of the countries present identity. It is a subconscious system that quietly reiterates a history that celebrates him over her.

Liam Gordon Price

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