Julie Rafalski

If Buildings Had Memories

I recently watched a documentary film project initiated by Wim Wenders, Cathedrals of Culture, which consists of five films. Each attempts to portray the soul of a specific building- among them the Berlin Philharmonic and the National Library in St Petersburg.

The film about the Berlin Philharmonic is a narrative told from the perspective of the building itself and tells of its history and experiences from its "birth" or when it was built until the present day. It speaks of the events that happened over the years, its memories and its likes and dislikes.

It underscores the fact that buildings outlive their makers and its inhabitants, and if these structures had memories, they would be more complex than those of humans and span years, in some cases centuries. If buildings did have memories, they would presumably have a vast archive of memories. Some memories would perhaps overlap with those of people passing through or working in the building. Some perhaps would be of the building standing alone when it is empty at night.

The archive would seem almost endless and replaying all the memories would perhaps take an eternity. There is a quote in the film about the Library in St Petersburg which says that eternity is always thought of as being very vast, but perhaps it's not vast at all- perhaps its a shed in the countryside- a derelict shed with spiders in the corners.

So perhaps buildings would remember differently than humans, perhaps for replaying all their memories wouldn't need an eternity, perhaps they would just need a shed in the countryside.