Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Places of Pain and Shame: Adaptive Reuse of Negatively Connotated Places

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posted on 2021-12-07, 08:52 authored by Winstanley, Gemma

Our landscape is a patchwork of scars, remnants of a painful past. A range of homes, sites and institutions with a history of confinement, racial discrimination or an involvement in war, massacre and genocide. These places, which often walk the thin line between our constant need to remember and the overwhelming urge to forget, often invoke pain, shame, guilt and ultimate futility because of the events that occurred and the ideologies they represent.  These places, defined here as negative heritage - conflictual sites that become the repository of negative memory in the collective imaginary, have become prolific the world over as we redefine what inheritance we preserve in our landscape for current use and to pass on to future generations. What this suggests is that, with the passing of time, what we consider to be heritage can become highly malleable - shaped to fit the parameters of local or national value systems and perceptions of identity.  The aim of this thesis is to examine the political, cultural or social conditions attributed to these stigmatized spaces that enable one site to be reused while another is condemned. It asks how does this influence of collective memory and perception affect how we design for the possible reuse of these sites?  The findings of this research inform the design of a process for the adaptive reuse of some of our most potent places of pain and shame. The development of this process drew on the specific history of memory, erasure and preservation in the architecture of Levin’s dilapidated Kimberley Centre, once New Zealand’s largest state-run institution. The process will allow for the development of strategies for managing stigmatized spaces, where the tendency to obliterate traumatic sites, whether materially or psychologically, must be rationalized with an effort to frame architecture as containers of sets of events, a multifaceted collection of histories in context.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



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Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McCarthy, Christine