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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Articulating History: Architecture and Memory (Daniel Libeskind)


daniel libeskind

An international figure in architecture and urban design, Daniel Libeskind is renowned for his ability to evoke cultural memory in buildings. In this piece he discusses how he ‘builds memory’ by focusing on five projects associated with conflict: the Jewish Museum, Berlin; the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück; the Military History Museum in Dresden; his plans for the Kurdistan Museum in Erbil; and the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in New York City.

Jacques Derrida, a good friend of mine and a great philosopher, told me once that he could write any book he wanted, put down any thought he pleased. ‘I don’t even have to publish it’, he said, ‘I just need to put it on the Internet and it’s out there in the world. But you, Mr Libeskind, need a legal document, legal permission to build even a small building!’ And it’s true, if you think about the laws governing architecture. You cannot build anything without the permission of the authorities. And so in that sense the art of architecture is very different from writing a book or a piece of music or theatre; it’s rather different to build a building that articulates and shapes memory. First of all, it’s a public endeavour, a social endeavour, it cannot be done privately. And secondly, unlike a book that can be filed away or a thought that can be put away, a piece of architecture in an urban space persists in being...

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