Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place

Architectural historian and York University visual arts professor Shelley Hornstein will give the Walter L. Gordon Lecture at York University on November 17, 2009 entitled “Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place,” based on her Walter L. Gordon Fellowship research.


In her talk, Hornstein will use several case studies to demonstrate different ways imaginary and real representations of buildings and places trigger, create and shape memory. Her presentation is an overview of her forthcoming book of the same title.


“We may live within [architecture], and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her.”  – John Ruskin, Seven Lamps of Architecture 


Hornstein argues that architecture is best remembered by experiencing a place. The buildings of an experienced environment are vividly preserved in memory. Yet when the architecture is no longer present (for example, if we’ve left the place, or the architecture is demolished), or if a site is only ever experienced second-hand through photos and descriptions, people carry on remembering those locations.


How does architecture, as a built material object, become iconic in non-architectural forms? What is the relationship between the built object and the visual and textual body of imagery that enables our imagination to, in effect, “transport” architecture elsewhere? In what ways do ideas or images we remember of certain buildings or places endure in our memory? What is the relationship of a physical place or building to an idea with a site or object as the material match to anchor or trigger the recollection? 


Hornstein’s lecture is the centrepiece of the Faculty of Fine Arts research celebration taking place on Tuesday, November 17, 2009. Her talk will be held from 12:00 noon to 2:00pm in Room 1009 of the Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) Building at York University, located at 4700 Keele Street in Toronto.