Montage vs. Pathway

Both the subject of our itinerary – a building – and the historical sources through which we are able to approach it today affect the form that our narrative takes. Inside the building, with its confined spaces, our vision is bounded by walls and corners. Memoirs, diaries, letters – our links to the past – vary in how detailed an account of the material culture and the everyday they provide.

The resulting narrative of the past is inevitably fragmentary. As we zoom in and out, shifting our focus on different concrete objects, the narrative becomes a sort of montage of varying distances, transitions and intersections. The building can be seen as a modernist novel consisting of fragments and references which the reader connects, places on the map.

Or, we can create more traditional linear narrative – progression from one floor, apartment and room to the next. A pathway that negotiates the interior of a building is one way of organizing historical knowledge. Movement through a building is not only the consumption of the traces that others have left, but also a means of preservation, a conscious act of remembering. As such it echoes the ancient Ars memoriae – a mnemonic device based on relating objects to physical locations and recalling them by "walking" through that space again. A static architecture of simultaneously coexisting spaces is at the same time a shifting and temporal entity.