Long Kesh  / The Maze Prison, Belfast, N.Ire:

Research in Memory and Amnesia, paper #4 

The PbCRC proposal to rework the Maze Prizon suggested by the board and their appointed architects Libeskind and Egret West risks a less than successful outcome due to the destruction of most of the site’s heritage and architectural form, resulting from what McAtackney calls a  “Creeping demolition by stealth”  (McAtackney 2014 p05). A process that has compromised the site’s authentic redevelopment and reflects the quiet process of creating a “deliberately neutral or forgetful landscape being forged elsewhere in the centre of Belfast ……in an effort to attract financial investment and tourism” (McDowell and Braniff 2014 p01). With so much purposeful removal of memory and meaning, it is hard to imagine that a legitimate architectural intervention can help record and articulate the conflict’s narrative successfully as a means to peacebuilding. Clark argues that “[t]he mass disposal of sites so intrinsically linked to the conflict, without any significant or public engagement, follows a discernible trajectory of post-Troubles political culture that steers towards an official forgetting of the past rather than attempting to uncover and engage with painful truths and accepting responsibilities” (Clarke 2005 p2). McAtackney reports the extent to which the site has been subject to methods of promoting amnesia, “[m]ost of the physical infrastructure of the prison has been demolished in recent years. As at 2011 only a small section of the prison – the former administrative area, one H block, one Nissen hut, the prison hospital and one of the prison chapels remain standing. Visitors to the site currently find what is effectively a ‘brown field’ site, facilitated reversions to wilderness, and even remnants of the foundations of previous cell blocks and Nissen huts have been mechanically extracted from the ground” (McAtackney 2014 p04-05). A process which, if it was practiced in another country under UN management, might be labelled as cultural cleansing. A process according to Akawi and Kolowrantnik, “aims to render people without a built central record. The built record of a people acts as an evidence of their history, as nourishment for their evolving identities, and as containers of their memories” (Akawi and Kolowratnik, 2013).

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The  Troubles and the manipulation of architectural symbols involving Meaning, Memory and Amnesia (MMA)

“Only a fool will build in defiance of the past. What is new and significant always must be grafted to old roots, the truly vital roots that are chosen with great care from the ones that merely survive. And what a delicate process it is to distinguish radical vitality from the wastes of mere survival, but that is the only way to achieve progress instead of disaster" (Bartok, 1962).

 

..........“In spaces of conflict, we often find several methods of silencing unwanted narratives to be exercised through physical interventions in the landscape. Most dominant is the violent act of erasure as it is put to work, most notably during projects of nation building, with the aim of forging a seamless territory that would tell the story of a homogenous nation, sharing a common history, and collectively built identity within the territory in question”.  … (Nora Akawi and Nina Valerie Kolowratnik, 2014)

Meaning, Memory and Amnesia (MMA)