8th November 2013
The Memory Palace
Interiors evade the neat taxonomies of style and narratives of progress that have traditionally dominated the history of architecture. Temporary arrangements of building, lining, furnishing, and occupation, interiors never unitary artifacts, and the history of interiors possesses no fixed canon. The historic interior may only ever be apprehended through traces and secondary sources. Once an interior has passed away, its constituent elements are incorporated into other interiors. All interiors, are, to some degree or another, made out of the remnants of others; and this means that the history of the interior can never enjoy the linear clarity of the histories of architecture or product design, which involve to a large part the creation of new artifacts. These issues pose particular problems for the historian of the interior, and this talk will propose a new model for the writing of their history: the Memory Palace, the classical rhetorical device explored by Frances Yates in The Art of Memory. This will be used to consider the structure for a possible history of interiors that, on the one hand, possesses something of the narrative coherence of traditional history, and, on the other, responds to the protean nature of the interior.
Edward Hollis practiced as an architect until 1999, when he started lecturing in Interior Architecture at Napier University, moving in 2004 to Edinburgh College of Art, where he is now Deputy Director of Research. He is secretary of the Interiors Forum Scotland that has successfully organized two conferences devoted to interiors: Thinking inside the Box (2007) and Interior Tools Interior Tactics (2008). Architectural alteration has been the main subject of his own research and his first book, The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories, was published in 2009. His second, The Memory Palace: a book of lost interiors, was published in 2013.