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Djabarouti, J., 2021.

Building conservation as memory-making practice

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:The Place of Memory and the Memory of Place International Conference
Venue:London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, London
Dates:19/6/2021 - 20/6/2021

Historic buildings have long been utilised as memorials. Their ability in this regard extends beyond qualities of persistence and permanence across time, and towards their capacity to absorb and be altered by the ongoing social practices of daily life. As such, the utilitarian and symbolic expectations that present-day cultures increasingly place on historic buildings requires architectural conservationists to choose in the present how the building should be preserved for future memorial functions. Typically, this process is led by the physical characteristics of buildings, which stabilise social memories by working within prescribed symbolic cultural codes. However, within the postmodern reconceptualization of heritage from historical resource to social practice, buildings are increasingly listed on the basis of the memories and events that are associated with their use, rather than the typical artistic, aesthetic and architectural qualities that are often associated with built heritage. Undistinguished temporary wartime structures are a prime example of this. Using the restored Grade II listed Bletchley Park huts in Milton Keynes as a case study, this paper explores how the conservation of ordinary and mundane heritage buildings like these can emphasise the safeguarding of memories, rather than materials. The various approaches towards the conservation of these humble timber huts are interpreted as present-day storytelling processes that focus on the making of memories rather than the mending of materials. In this instance, conservation becomes a memory practice that prioritises transformation and renewal over the past and its physical remnants.