Urban memoryscapes: space and memory in the post-conflict city

Workshop hosted by LSE Cities

This half-day workshop brought together academics, practitioners and activists to consider the ways in which post-conflict urban environments function as archives of traumatic or violent pasts, and the politics of excavation of these pasts. In some cases, histories of conflict are enfolded with processes of urban transformation or rehabilitation, intrinsic to projects of nation-building and recovery. At the same time, cities house multitudes of narratives which remain marginalised or unacknowledged in public space, although these occluded histories may “leak” into urban public space in ways which subvert dominant representations of the past. Intersecting and conflicting memories and narratives accrue around the city’s built forms, as well as by alternative means which may be more subtle or difficult to access.

Questions under discussion included, among others: How are histories of conflict and violence located and marked in urban public space? What means are available for recovering occluded narratives of collective memory, beyond the traditions of the monument or the museum? How do practices of urban public memory intersect with processes of transformation and post-conflict reconstruction? And what is the political potential for the post-conflict city’s memorial landscape to function as a site of multiplicity, contestation, and the participation of diverse publics in the making and re-making of urban space?

Rashid Ali, RA Projects
Gruia Badescu, University of Cambridge
Mona el Hallak Ghaibeh, Beit Beirut
Cara Levey, University College Cork
Naomi Roux, LSE Cities


    Rashid Ali

    Rashid Ali studied architecture at the Bartlett school University College London and City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economics. He established the architectural and design practice RA Projects in 2009 as a collaborative research studio to pursue issues of interest through teaching, research and building. Ali is curator of Lost Moderns, in collaboration with Andrew Cross, a photographic and archival exhibition focusing on modernist architecture and urban forms in Mogadishu in the aftermath of the Somali civil war.

    Gruia Badescu

    Gruia Badescu is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research at the University of Cambridge.  His PhD research examines the relationship between the reconstruction of cities after war and the process of coming to terms with the past, focusing on Belgrade and Sarajevo. He has previously worked on the uses of architecture and urban design in the process of post-war reconciliation in Beirut and Sarajevo; and on urban design and integrated urban development planning projects in Romania, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.

    Mona El Hallak Ghaibeh

    Mona El Hallak Ghaibeh is a Lebanese architect and heritage preservation activist who has led several heritage preservation campaigns in Beirut. One of these campaigns was a fifteen-year process of lobbying for the preservation of an apartment building, the Barakat Building in central Beirut, which was abandoned during the Lebanese civil war and taken over as a snipers’ hideout. The building is currently being reimagined as Beit Beirut, a museum of memory and a cultural centre reflecting the building and the city’s multiple histories of everyday life and conflict.

    Cara Levey

    Cara Levey is Lecturer in Latin American Studies at University College Cork. Her research focuses on cultural memory and justice in post-dictatorship Argentina and Uruguay. She is editor of Argentina since the 2001 Crisis: Recovering the Past, Reclaiming the Future (Palgrave, 2014) and her monograph Commemoration and Contestation in Post-dictatorship Argentina and Uruguay: Fragile Memory, Shifting Impunity is forthcoming in 2015.

    Naomi Roux

    Naomi Roux is the current Mellon Fellow in Cities and Humanities at LSE Cities. Her research focuses on the intersections between memory and spatiality, in particular the construction and contestation of collective memory in public space. Her current work examines possibilities for alternative forms of public memory in urban contexts, and the potential for collective memory and heritage as participatory, democratised practices. She has recently completed a PhD at Birkbeck, University of London, focusing on collective memory, violence and post-apartheid urban transformation in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.