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The Unavoidable Metaphor of Memorial Architecture: The Boundaries and Event-Space of Chernobyl Reactor No. 4

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posted on 2021-11-12, 10:48 authored by van der Veen, Christopher Ian

In the design of memorial architecture, there is encountered an overuse of literal metaphor in order to translate difficult concepts into the built form. These metaphors are explored in contemporary examples of memorial and hybrid-memorial typologies. Within Chernobyl, there is a set of criteria that enable these metaphorical interpretations to operate on a more complex level, and allow the act of memorialising a truer response. The unique conditions contained within the reactor allow for a reinterpretation of architectural process, which is already realised by the existing Sarcophagus - a reactive memorial itself, designed to entomb the burnt core and its radioactive properties. As such, the reactor and its attached site can no longer be re-used in any functional capacity; the proposed memorial embraces these criteria, exploiting phenomenological thought in order to locate a set of boundary conditions. This creates an event-space -  that being the location of inhabitable architecture within the reactor. Event-space exists between the boundaries established, which is a conceptual entity that is able exist in reality, and enable flashes of the past events to surface, which are interpreted by the memorial inhabitants. The memorial uses this event-space, within the sites absence of function, to locate the actual event of the disaster in the past. This fragile undertaking is achieved by placing greater responsibility on architecture to mediate the design of memorial, and remove external influences that halt this process.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McLeod, Warwick