the art of memory and architectural places


"It is not difficult to get hold of the general principles of the mnemonic.  The first step was to imprint on the memory of series of loci or places.  The commonest, though not the only mnemonic place system used was the architectural type....In order to form a series of places in memory...a building is to be remembered, as spacious and varied a one as possible, the forecourt, the living room, bedrooms, and parlours, not omitting statues and other ornaments with which the rooms are decorated." - The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates

Today, I walked a job with a contractor.  When we left the garden level kitchen we had a conversation with regard to a certain point...then we digressed and  after thirty (30) minutes in the rear yard reviewing the facade and returning to the garden level kitchen we restarted or continued same previous conversation.

Is there an architectural space, place, element, plan that always triggers the same memory? If so, what space, place, element or plan and what memory? (if not too personal)

Johnny Mnemonic

Jul 14, 17 11:56 pm

fyi, memory is a bitch...

Keanu Reeves as Mr. Smith and not Mr. Anderson...and he needs iPhones in 1995...Henry Rollins will fix it later

don't take my word for it, but Steve Jobs was a hack and Apple is a joke.

History of iPhone

as posted above, what architectural project is your narrative to memory?

Jul 15, 17 1:04 am
Tinbeary There there

Is there an architectural space, place, element, plan that always triggers the same memory? Every place. Sometimes even places I've never been before. 

I use the method of loci to remember my grocery list. In my mind, I do a walk through of the grocery store, going to all the places where I will need to pick stuff up. Then I do it for real. No list needed. 

Jul 15, 17 12:48 pm

nice! the one task in my life where I do not focus is the grocery list, i literally will look at the txt from my wife like 20 times.......I also like the "sometimes even places I've never been before". that is a really useful method I would think.


loci would be screwed up if all of a sudden, grocery staff decides to rearrange the items to different aisles. also, the hardest place to remember is that area my wife asks me to get her feminine stuff.


"If we wish to remember much material we must equip ourselves with a large number of places.  It is essential that the places should form a series and must be remembered in their order, so that we can start from any locus in the series and move either backwards or forwards from it."  - The Art of Memory, Frances A. Yates

Grocery store seems ideal for this!

Jul 15, 17 1:15 pm
Kos Scarpa Kos

>>>I cannot take a walk around my district (Rio Marin etc…) without getting attracted to the flaming vases sculptures (traditionally symbol of faith??) on the other side of the marble screen - Scuola San Giovanni Evangelista >>>strange feeling has been occurring whenever rewatching this >>>this may come in the form of an inexplicable dejà vu

Jul 15, 17 2:39 pm
Similar thoughts to tintt; anytime I forget or misplace something I retrace the steps in my mind. Which room was I in? If I met someone and can't remember the name, I need a where.

To OP - there's a concert venue/night club I wound up in with some friends many years ago. Those friends are long gone but the building, actually a particular hallway that is quite differently decorated now, brings back that first memory of entering this place which quickly became and remains one of my favorite buildings of all time.

I would say that I have a similar experience with buildings I consider favorites - I will always recall the first visit, why I went, who I went with, the sound, the smell, the weather outside. I assume the memories are tilted and exaggerated toward the positive as I consider them positive experiences. Memory is tricky that way in that it is never a factual recollection but rather a swirl of emotion and imagery. I am ok with this as the way I recollect these moments are likely far more interesting than were I to watch a video of the event.
Jul 15, 17 3:21 pm

>>>mysterious flaming vases (symbol of faith?)

Jul 19, 17 3:53 am

was going to ask, thanks for posting.


Cicero's method of remembering speeches?

Personally I find landscapes more memorable: Quads where I graduated, HS entry hall, parks close to old homes.  Architecturally, spaces with profound sections always seem to trigger associations; along with the spaces that were studied as precedents in school.

Jul 21, 17 1:33 pm

correct, Yates is starting with the ancients.

"The clothed woman cradles vase with jewels representing the riches of earthly love. Her naked twin on the right holds the burning flame of ethernal love" >>> Tiziano - Sacred and profane love

Jul 31, 17 6:47 am

I really like this book.
Haven't read this thread though. Shot in the dark. 

Jul 31, 17 7:06 am

ILA ... Byatt is the author of the BookerPrize winning novel "Possession" ...

Aug 7, 17 7:27 am

The completion of human architecture is when it is finally in ruins, and those spaces seemed to inspire more contemplation for me personally. Some people and architects in my experience would seem depressed in such places, but I saw it as a cyclic completion which may seem a little melancholy for some, but at one time it was a place of joy in other peoples' memories.

What happened to these places?

I asked myself.

Why will it happen to these other places now in the middle of their cycle?

Aug 8, 17 5:35 am

BIMBlaster  - 100% agree. Aren’t we 2 Piranesi Instagram followers? 


Aug 13, 17 9:06 pm

"The five rules for choosing places are now quoted, namely (1) in quiet spots to avoid disturbance of the intense concentration needed for memorising; (2) not too much alike, for example not too many identical intercolumniations; (3) neither too large nor too small; (4) neither too brightly lighted nor too obscure; (5) with intervals between them of moderate extent, about thirty feet." - The Art of Memory: The Art of Memory in the Middle Ages, Frances A. Yates (discussing De bono of Albertus Magnus)

Aug 18, 17 7:55 pm

it's not a sport - it's an obsession >>>flaming vases #3

Aug 24, 17 12:18 pm

How do you space them apart properly?

>these 2 are difficult to clean >>> anyway they move by themselves. They run with their own L+L


was that an l-system reference?

“In the “Time Passes” section of To The Lighthouse, the inside and the outside of the house interpenetrate as Woolf explores the notion that the books are about people first and houses second".

“Significantly, the emptiness of the house in “Time Passes” evokes a fullness of purpose that relies on a domestic and a literaly tradition of retreat, which invests the house with a meaning beyond its ideological and physical structure”

“The disintegration of the interior space of the house and its penetration by the outside world mirrors the obliteration between the private and the public feminine self in Clarissa’s and Mrs. Ramsay’s moments of retirement. Woolf’s empty house and these moments of feminine retirement gesture toward a reconstruction of nineteenths – century ideology that aligns an architecture of the self with an architecture of the house".

E. Blair - Virginia Woolf and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel

Aug 30, 17 11:41 am

Like where you are going with this

“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind” Virginia Woolf

Woolf + Woolf + Woolf – stream of consciousness – memory + Time passes + Time passes + home + home + memory + Woolf – memory – memory – memory + Woolf + Woolf – memory – The lighthouse + stream of consciousness + home + home

​>>> l-system Woolf's fractal

>>>Borromini >>>the lantern of Sant'Ivo is topped with a spiral shape, surmounted by flaming vases

Sep 14, 17 7:24 am

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