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Post Trauma: Memory as a Catalyst

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posted on 24.09.2021, 00:00 by Wade, Ben

In literary fictional readings, underlying allegorical ideas arise for todays architectural landscapes, both literally and figuratively. This design-led research thesis emerges from Andreas Huyssen’s allegorical theories of ruins as factual indicators that records ruins as palimpsests of historical events as an ongoing process (Huyssen, 2010, p. 17). The layering of graphic information is such that the past happenings merge with the present explorations to create a distinct narrative in itself. This represents a provocative and enigmatic allegorical response to the loss of forgotten landscapes in architecture today: Post Trauma. This investigation thus seeks to interrogate architectural ruins scattered at Perano Whaling Station as repositories for collective memory through enacting allegorical interpretations — challenging the conventions of historical fragments through [re]presentational techniques, weaving them into an experiential narrative. This narrative builds upon these forgotten scars as palimpsests — interpreting and [re]interpreting their [re]purpose — rather than removal from existence all together. Huyssen’s theories of enigmatic experiential ruins acts as an allegorical provocateur, the initial point of immersion — an evocative starting point to engage in the [re]presentation of Perano’s context. The PeranoStation, much like all ruins, possesses a liminal characteristic on its remaining spaces. An eerie threshold to a brutal past, aggressively carved into the landscape and its inhabitation.

These scars act as a literal portal to evocative experiences — an act of trying to understand a traumatised landscape. The need for distinctive architectural elements that can translatethe essence and experiences of this liminal and transitional space, between both sides of a threshold; past and present, presence and absence, living and dissolving.

Tim Edensor intrinsically positions ruins as a ‘fragile and ephemeral place’ (DeSilvey and Edensor, 2012, p. 472). Alice Mah also shows in her study ‘Industrial Ruination, Community, and Place’, ruin[ation] may be ‘a lived process’ in which memory is rooted in the experience of decline. “The present has not moved far from the past, and the future is at best uncertain” (DeSilvey and Edensor, 2012, p. 410). This can be understood as a response to the views of architectural ruins as monuments left behind by collapsed destruction and unfulfilled dreams; existing outside therealms of productive structure. The problem this thesis aims to address is not the visual problem of sight, but the visceral problem of drawing — using different mediums to read traces of past happenings. It is through this act of drawing that engagement with Virgil Abloh’s ‘Purist’ and ‘Tourist’ mentalities that this thesis began “Playing with mediums and materials to make an expression” as Abloh notes (HighMuseum, 2020).

Including drawing as a medium of speculative inquiry to [re]interpret Perano Whaling Station’s contextual scarring; layering and juxtaposing information built upon the architectural narrative and proposition. This questions drawings role in architectural interrogation and how it can erase preconceived notions. This is motivated by a personal journey of engagement with such erasure, it took moments of critical reflection upon these scars, to try imagine them as mnemonic devices. Triggering a conversation within ourselves — reflecting on these transformations — toggling between the ‘Purist’ and ‘Tourist’ mindsets that Virgil Abloh poses for excavating and expressing modern design to an audience.


Advisor 1

Abreu e Lima, Daniele

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Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture