Memorial to Absence: District Six, Cape Town (BArch Thesis, UCT, 2006)
Memorial to Absence: District Six, Cape Town – BArch Thesis (UCT, November 2006)
A memorial is built so that one can never forget. The absence of District Six from Cape Town’s urban life and fabric is a loss which must be experienced by future generations as proof –one of many – of the excesses of apartheid.
But what is the capacity of architecture to capture the memory of loss?
The challenge here was to represent something that is intangible through a physical presence, something that captures the imagination and suggests a presence which is no longer. As urban intervention, the memorial seeks to remind and inform the visitor that a human place once existed on the slopes of the mountain and was tragically destroyed. At the same time, it is important that this memory exists within the everyday, so that it is not removed from where it originated. The memorial would thus lend itself to daily use as a thoroughfare and playground, built prior to the area’s future re-development with connections to it. Spatially, the memorial is a public walk-in sculpture that partially re-creates the experience of walking along sections of the former Richmond and Hanover streets. This is achieved through an horizontal cut into the ground that gradually digs deeper onto the earth, recovering the characteristic steepness of the uphill streets of the District and gradually absorbing the visitor from the rest of the city, whose sounds fade to a complete silence. The sculpture reproduces the District’s characteristic street morphology to the original scale in an abstracted and uncanny way that speaks of its lifelessness and gives it an otherworldly character.
[This project won the Western Cape Regional Finals of the Corobrik Student of the Year Awards 2006.]