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HISTORIC HOUSES AS PILLARS OF MEMORY: CASES FROM CAIRO, EGYPT.

Abstract
By : Aliaa AlSadaty

 
The relationship between collective memory and the built environment is a complex relationship. Though the concept of memory is fragile, the maintenance and continuation of urban memory are essential to maintain groups’ identities and to support the sense of place and place attachment between community members and the architectural settings they use and/or reside in. Preserving the physical aspects of buildings, spaces and settings that are linked with memory, is important to preserve the memory, however, the mere preservation does not guarantee the continuation of memory. The maintenance and continuation of memory is a process that depends on several factors, where the preservation of the physical aspects is only one among several. This paper aims at a better understanding of the intricate relationship between collective memory and the built environment, focusing on the processes of formation, stimulation and consolidation of memory. The paper sheds the lights on historic houses that are embedded with significant meanings and memories to their social contexts. It claims that historic houses can easily shift from ‘potential cultural memory’ to ‘actual cultural memory’ that could act as pillars of memory to their surrounding community, if the conservation process is done comprehensively, that is to include not only the physical and spatial aspects of memory but also to tackle the social dimensions of memory as well. The paper is organized into three sections: the first investigates the memory formation process, focusing on the social and the spatial dimension of memory, then the second investigates the possible channels to memory stimulation and consolidation, and finally, as a case study, the third section investigates the memory of two historic houses in Cairo, Egypt. The review of the works undertaken in the two houses highlights the difference and the distance between the concept of restoration and the essence of conservation. Findings yielded that, urban memory is an important aspect of cultural heritage that should to be captured and preserved for current and future generations, an aspect that is missing in local conservation approaches. Moreover, to be maintained, urban memory needs physical, social and moral props.

Keywords: Collective Urban Memory, Memory Formation Process, Memory Stimulation, Memory Consolidation, Historic Houses.

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