1st Edition

Presenting Difficult Pasts Through Architecture Converting National Socialist Sites to Documentation Centers

By Rumiko Handa Copyright 2021
    222 Pages 86 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    222 Pages 86 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Architectural design can play a role in helping make the past present in meaningful ways when applied to preexisting buildings and places that carry notable and troubling pasts. In this comparative analysis, Rumiko Handa establishes the critical role architectural designs play in presenting difficult pasts by examining documentation centers on National Socialism in Germany.

    Presenting Difficult Pasts Through Architecture analyzes four centers – Cologne, Nuremberg, Berlin, and Munich – from the point of view of their shared intent to make the past present at National Socialists' perpetrator sites. Applying original frameworks, Handa considers what more architectural design could do toward meaningful representations and interpretations of difficult pasts.

    This book is a must-read for students, practitioners, and academics interested in how architectural design can participate in presenting the difficult pasts of historical places in meaningful ways.

    List of Figures


    1. Postwar Rebuilding and Coping with the Past

    2. Four Documentation Centers – Histories

    3. In the Shadow of Propaganda Architecture

    4. Presenting Pasts through Architecture – Intellectual Framework

    5. Formal Characteristics

    6. Physical Traces

    7. Designation

    8. Memento




    Rumiko Handa is Professor of Architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. She holds a PhD in architectural theory from the University of Pennsylvania and a BArch from the University of Tokyo, Japan. Her writings have appeared in: Montreal Architecture Review; Interiors: Design, Architecture, Culture; The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians; Preservation Education & Research; Design Studies; and so on. She co-edited Conjuring the Real: The Role of Architecture in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. She is also the author of Allure of the Incomplete, Imperfect, and Impermanent.

    ‘This book provides an intelligibly conceptualized, clearly organized and well-illustrated architectural guide to the Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin, and also Cologne documentation centers that should be of interest to both architects, curators of historical museums—especially institutions devoted to the presentation of a difficult and/or contested past—and public historians who are interested in the ability of architects to contribute to an understanding of the past and an engagement with it in the public sphere. I have often thought that these buildings deserved a monograph, and to my delight, the complexity of their architectural rhetoric has found a match in the architectural criticism, sense of scholarly perseverance, and openness to the at times ironic dimensions of museums of perpetrator history brought to the subject by Rumiko Handa.’

    Pelt, Van, and Robert Jan. "Review: Presenting Difficult Pasts Through Architecture: Converting National Socialist Sites to Documentation Centers, by Rumiko Handa." The Public Historian 43, no. 4 (November 1, 2021): 153–55. https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2021.43.4.153.