Peripheral memory : New York's forgotten landscape
Author(s)Buelow, Deborah Ann
New York's forgotten landscape
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
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Hart Island, New York City's largest public burial ground, reveals an alternate history of the city through the lens of the interment of the abject. Historically, the state has provided for remains not otherwise cared for through what are commonly referred to as "potter's fields" - municipally owned burial grounds for the poor, the friendless, the alien, and the unknown. The location and lack of iconography act to erase the memories of so-called abject members of society rather than preserve them. New York City houses the country's largest of these municipal burial grounds on Hart Island, remotely situated away from the city. The management of these burials is left to the Department of Correction, which daily ships inmates from nearby Riker's Island to bury unknown members of society. Although since 1869 approximately three quarters of a million bodies have been interred there through the penal system, many of New York's inhabitants are not aware of its existence. A major contributing factor to the absence of public knowledge is the lack of information either about the phenomenon of the potter's field or about Hart Island itself. Reference to Hart Island today is limited to on-line curiosity blogs and op-ed columns in the daily newspapers, but even then references are infrequent. Yet the area of the island is equivalent to fifty New York City blocks - a large swath of land to be ignored in a dense urban context. This thesis addresses the landscape of Hart Island, which acts as a depository for identity shaped through memory. Urban landscapes reveal social and cultural biases in their physical characteristics. Identity is made evident through, or paradoxically denied by, these terrains. Hart Island exemplifies one such landscape of negated identity. By looking at the history of Hart Island and its physical relationship to the constructed city, this thesis uncovers socioeconomic disparities that manifest themselves even in death.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Architecture, 2010."June 2010." Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 141-149).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology