Memory and Mastery Lost

Community & Co-design
by Mark

This decade made a dramatic entry with unprecedented bushfires ravaging the country. Few people, if any, have been left unaffected, either directly or indirectly, by the impact. The fires crept close to my backdoor in the Southern Highlands and have struck our heartland on the NSW South Coast with our Batemans Bay office providing an emergency overnight refuge for one family.

As architects, we are acutely aware of the value of the built environment. While the tragic loss of human life pales any other concerns, we know that in the current bushfires hundreds of homes providing essential shelter and security have been destroyed. Buildings can be rebuilt, however, there is also loss of memory and our sense of mastery over our world.

John Ruskin, prolific nineteenth century architectural writer, believed that architecture is a repository of memory. He wrote The Seven Lamps of Architecture in 1849 with memory as one of the ‘lamps’ advocating that; “Architecture is to be regarded by us with the most serious thought. We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her.”  As we hear from those who have lost their homes, we see that it is more than treasured artefacts that will be missed. A home is a tangible museum of family memories.

It is not only memory that is lost in the ashes of houses and businesses. James Borrell wrote in ‘Rupture, Loss, Identity and Place’ after the 2009 Victorian bushfires that people lose ‘their sense of mastery over their world and the deep sense of well-being that goes with that’. In rebuilding during recovery, we must be mindful that people need to be empowered during the design and construction process. Jenny Donavan, in CSRIO publication, ‘Designing to Heal’, wisely advised that, “it is essential to not just design the right thing but design in the right way”.

Edmiston Jones is committed to our region and are actively seeking ways to contribute our skills to the recovery from this maelstrom.  We are looking to not just satisfy immediate needs but to build resilience and resources to meet the challenges of any future catastrophic events.

You will have received this blog as a friend of our firm. We are here to help! If we can assist in any way please contact Stuart in Eurobodalla (0429 743 334); Gabe in Shoalhaven (0405 225 945); Graham in the Illawarra (0408 696 327); or me in the Southern Highlands (0412 216 822).


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