Moving through and standing at/on/in memorial spaces — ASN Events

Moving through and standing at/on/in memorial spaces (14688)

Danielle Drozdzewski 1
  1. UNSW, Kensington, NSW, Australia

Some monuments, and memorial spaces, are constructed with the physical interactions between the memorial and it’s viewer in mind.  This paper discusses two such public memorial spaces in Berlin, Germany, and examines how people move through, dwell, and sense, (or not) at/in/on these spaces.   The stolpersteine (stumbling stones) and the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe are two distinctly different memorials, yet they each have a sensory quality where the experience of interacting with the monument is an integral part of sensing the monument’s purpose. 

The monument to the murdered Jews of Europe is a contested memorial space constructed to commemorate a sombre and grievous history of at least a million people.  It is difficult to reach a consensus on whether Berliners or visitors ‘like’ the monument and appreciate its unusual aesthetic design.   What is overly apparent is the architect, Peter Eisenman, created a talking point and a space that beckons a range of mobilities.  This is a space that people (including tourists alighting from a constant stream of coaches) move through, sit on, jump over, sunbathe on, skate through, and stare at – despite the official rules of conduct prohibiting most of these movements.

On the other hand, the stolpersteine are small bronze plaques embedded in the pavements of many German cities (and also around Europe) – they are a purposefully implicit part of the everyday streetscape.  They are often unnoticed, stepped on, stepped over, or dirtied by a constant stream of foot traffic.  When noticed, their placement in the pavement necessitates the viewer to stop, look down, bowing their head in familiar stance of reverence.  Each stone recalls the fate of one person under Fascism; locating this individual history at the location of their last known residence in the city.  The stones seek to remind today’s passer-by that gruesome histories occur in everyday spaces.