chapter
10 Pages

Conclusion: a monument to a ruin

ByJonathan Hill

Monumentality is in the eye of the beholder. Without any physical transformation, a structure may become a monument or may no longer be one. A monument can be private and personal, but more often it reflects shared values. Whether they are designed for a commemorative purpose or acquire significance in a later era, monuments mirror a society’s values and concerns at a specific time, indicating its relations with other communities and other times. Built to last, monuments address our fears of mortality by convincing us that we will be remembered in the future. But they can be an ineffective means of collective remembrance. Their original meanings are soon transformed, obscured or forgotten unless they are continuously recalled and reaffirmed through everyday or ritualistic behaviour, which are as necessary to perpetuating collective memory as any material object. Memory is not static. It may wither, linger or evolve, varying according to who is remembering what and when. For example, the collective memory of architects is likely to be quite different from that of another community. A monument may be celebratory or recall a traumatic event, but it is more often dialectical, indicating what a society chooses to remember and forget. An etymology of the term ‘monument’ refers to the Latin monumentum, which in turn derives from monere, meaning to remind, warn and advise. A monument’s purpose is complex and questioning and not merely commemorative.