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Title: (Post-)Jewish architecture of memory within former Eastern European shtetls
Author: Romik, Natalia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7661 2118
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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This PhD thesis by Architectural Design confronts the 'present absence' of former shtetls - the predominantly Jewish towns that were dotted throughout Eastern Europe before the Second World War, afterwards repopulated by people of other nationalities. Bridging from theory to practice, and from engagement in the actual terrain of Poland through to spectral lost Jewish communities, it offers an original interdisciplinary fusion between architectural design research and Jewish studies. As an application of open, fluid experimental design research, the originality of this study comes from its embrace of creative possibilities to bring fresh insights to seemingly intractable social issues presented today by these former shtetls - a situation made worse by the politicised atmosphere created by the authoritarian turn within Polish politics and recurring anti-Semitism. Emphasising the role of creative intuition, I therefore ad-dress through a range of 'nomadic' projects the processes of architectural disappearance, urban remembrance, and functional change in the context of dramatic social upheaval. In alliance with other enthusiasts, NGOs and institutions, my projects span from subtle mirror-clad interventions - the Nomadic Shtetl Archive, JAD and Hurdy-Gurdy - through to renovation schemes that turn derelict synagogues and Jewish pre-burial houses into historical museums and cultural centres. My projects are intended as positive contributions that avoid direct confrontation, which I find politically un-productive in addressing the complexities of former shtetls. Given its emphasis on speculative design research, this is by no means a conventionally structured doctoral thesis. To give comprehensible form to the intertwined layers of practice and discourse, and the intersection between the diverse investigations offered by archival research and creative projects, I developed a format inspired by the graphic layout of the classic Jewish Talmud. As such, the thesis adopts a polyphonic structure to give space for the projects to unfold - sometimes by the means of images, other times through texts. The use of a Talmudic format also facilitates dialogue with my associates, fellow travellers, the people with whom I spoke face-to-face in Poland, and others whom I have never met, and will never meet, whose voices or faces I know only from memory books or archival records. All of them partake equally in the story that is told.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available