To return to any place is, associatively or figuratively, to reconstruct any event that happened at that place—especially if it’s a personally or universally defining event. To acutely mark that spot with an architectural artifact like a monument or memorial makes it impossible to miss, but also denies us the architectural setting of everyday life that enabled—or witnessed—that event in the first place. And such monuments can also seem, all too easily, to relieve us from our duty of further recollection and reflection. To demolish whatever stood at a place may seem like erasing that place’s defining event from history. But, conversely, to restore a place too completely to some earlier state can become a form of erasure, a denial that any disruption has ever happened.
Shootings, events defined by immediate sightlines and ballistic trajectories, are an especially spatial and architectural kind of violence, and some ineffable part of their violence is to space itself—to the very airspace or geographical coördinates at which shots were fired or taken. The architectural task in the long aftermath of such shootings is not only to repair structural damage but to calibrate a balance between remembering and forgetting sufficient for daily life to continue nearby—and to figure out how the shapes, materials, and details of buildings can participate in that calibration. The architectural task is not only to provide actual security and defensibility but to figure out how the ways you see and move through buildings can affect your feelings of being at risk or at home.
Thomas De Monchaux talks to Erlend Haffner of the Oslo design firm Fantastic Norway, who has been hired to rebuild the summer camp on Utoya Island, which was the site of a mass shooting in July, 2011, about the process of rebuilding violent places: http://nyr.kr/16c0vKo
Photograph: Courtesy Fantastic Norway.