#rip: Encoding Memory

We believe memory is identity. How we are remembered defines who we are. It is a choice to encode our identities, either physically as engravings on a headstone or digitally utilizing social media. Researching various procedures of displacement of the deceased and the living, we mine existing system deficiencies and disruptions within Manhattan. The current state reveals remembrance and memorialization uprooted from the island, disconnecting the sites where memories were originally created and celebrated. This project bridges the disintegration between where memories were made and where they exist after death. By grafting onto the subway’s existing nodal network, we will celebrate traces and reverberations, returning memorialization to Manhattan.

Memorialization of the dead today occurs physically and digitally. Physical memorials, although inefficient and resource intensive, have had stay power because we value the permanence and tactility they offer. Digital Memorials, a relatively new model of memorial thanks to social media, have become popular because we can access more information about the dead at any time and place. Can a better form of memorialization emerge by taking the valuable aspects of digital and physical memorialization and merging them?

Stations in the city’s existing subway system would be used to record and encode memories, making remembrance a part of the every commute. By tracking hashtags in social media posts associated with death in New York City, a number of hotspot nodes were identified. The memorials implemented at smaller subway station serve the local neighborhood whereas the memorials in larger stations like Madison Square Garden serve an entire bourough.

The fertilized soil would be used to create a lush interior garden designed with congregation spaces for both commuters and mourners, as well as green spaces above subway stations. Family members who store the memories can use an app to literally fertilize the gardens with their loved ones.

The atrium of Madison Square Garden contains data servers that store the digital memories collected in the subway system. The data servers perform an additional function in the space – they heat up and cool various climate gardens to create controlled weather conditions to grow plants from all climates.

Partners: Min He, Mai Abusalih
Mentored by Karla Rothstein

Columbia GSAPP