ARTS: maps of memory (places of remembrance)

CONTENT / TO COME IN CONTACT with ourselves and with our to have become through lifetime (bonnländer 2019): Places of Remembrance – A practical experiment to reconstruct memories through developing a city map

People who suffer from dementia, for example Alzheimer’s, suffer from memory loss. Events that occurred long ago, but which can be emotionally significant for us, often lie in childhood. But in what ways can we bring back to life emotionally significant memories for our present life or for the development of new designs for ourselves and for being recognized as a person instead of a patient? How can a world and an architecture for persons who suffer from dementia look like – so that their live can be a personal live? The philosopher, psychotherapist and art therapist Karl-Heinz Menzen says that exercises that support the reconstruction of places from childhood stimulate emotional memory. And that re-associating personal memory with time and space as a system of coordination is critically responsible for the capacity of memory. His practical ideas are based on neurologically-oriented theories of the structure of the brain, of rehabilitation. By connecting to neuronal networking intact brain areas, such as the areas of long-term memory reconstruction of memory performance thus the ability to remember is activated. He focuses on training through a methodical approach in the art therapeutic setting to promote the relationship to space and time and the own personality in its individual and historical aspects. According to Menzen, impulses for the reconstruction of memory, for example are places of childhood – “Our hometown”. With the support of an art therapist, the old people draw streets of the place from their own childhood like an architect on a large piece of paper assembled for everyone and then replicate the houses that were formerly inhabited (Menzen, 2008, p. 63 f).

Keywords: Interdisciplinary aspects of architecture – Fine Arts, Art Therapy, Memory of Emotions, Dementia, Alzheimer

AIMS / The aim is to come in contact with our memories and to build a map and to tell about the experience after. The students investigate whether and which memories are brought to life with this method. They observe whether details become more and more detailed, whether there are special smells and colors, surface textures, haptic or acoustic memories. Whether long-forgotten people appear with whom they are perhaps connected by a special event or who have played an important role in their lives. As we sketch and model in ever greater detail, we investigate whether narratives emerge during this process and whether we want to share them with others.

SUMMARY OUTCOMES To bring together – synchronize – space and time in this specific method support remembering and the ability of being in contact with the own emotions, related to the awoked sensual aspects, that are experienced while creative working – f.e. – hammering – noise, vibration, rhythm – reminding of sounds and sensations of the past, relating to the actual moment.

Drawing and building the (emotional) objects of remembering in context of space awoke inner pictures and stimulates associated atmospheric memories and so it creates narratives: f.e. from the wallpaper with pattern of roses to the memory of elegant parties, music and athmosphere of the parents house.
To tell and show after reconstructing promotes the communication into the social group. To listen to the stories and see the visual representations of biografic memories transport them into an actualized space and moment. Both – social space and the concrete perceptive space of the moment relate to past and present of an individuum and of a society.

This method transferred to a working situation with a person suffering from dementia it enables both – the individuums of the group of clients, and the accompanying artist to make the whole personality recognizable in the relation. Emotions, experiences aspects of identity, qualities of the person / character – of past and present become awoke in the actual relation Architects can reflect on their professional practice in a playful way, getting impulses by both personal and cultural – historical aspects of experienced places and spaces – connected to their own experienced past or to the cultural and historically – different – memories of collegues. (Connert und Bonnländer, 2019).

METHOD / First we draw and reconstruct a map of the places of our childhood: the streets and places around, the buildings and the environment. We will reconstruct the house of our parents or the people we grew up with, for example with clay. We all work on our own map or city map at the same time. This way we can hear the sounds of the other participants. Afterwards we want to show and to reflect and exchange our experiences and observations.

Working Instruction: Draw a memory of a residency place in childhood, for example also the pathways to school and so on… – in a map perspective, after having the plan, add memory specific details like situations, experiences, by drawing, painting, or in any other way for example threedimensional with clay or with tape Materials you need: A big paper for the city map, drawing materials – pencils, water colors or other colors, Scissors, brushes or crayons to paint. Materials to build houses on the map, for example clay, cardboard, strong paper, glue, adhesive tapes. Please send the foto of your object in JPEG 200 ppi during the first day workshop to us.


1st day: Introduction, Group work, show the city-map in JPEG 200 ppi.

2nd day: to show and tell.


SCHEDULE / 2-Week Workshop. Weekly 4-hour class arranged with the students: Introduction, Development and to show part 1 / 16 Feb 2021.



Part 2 Final Crit / 23 Feb 2021.

  1. To sensitize oneself to oneself and others by exploring the importance of memories of childhood places.
  2. Did I succeed in bringing back to life memories of my childhood by reconstructing streets and houses in a map of the place of my childhood?
  3. How does my memory of the place of my childhood change after I have worked out a map of it? What do I generate? What emerges, what changes – memories of events, colors, sounds, objects, characteristics of materials or surfaces, ideas of space?
  4. Are there emotions involved? Which one?
  5. What is the meaning of the fact that I created my city map by my own hand, without digital tools? Please observe your sensuality in your hands, your sense of space…
  6. Students can show and explain their city map to others and exchange experiences with others.
  7. They can reflect on a meta-level and describe how two-dimensional and three- dimensional processes work in combination with biography.
  8. Students deal with related sciences and interdisciplinary aspects.
  9. Explore possibilities of how to support people suffering from forgetting in the field of space and time through sensitive spatial development.

Bibliography /

Menzen, K.-H. (2008). Art therapy with people confused by age (2nd ed.), 53-70. Munich: Ernst Reinhardt Connert, S. (2019). Ein Leben mit Demenz im hohen Lebensalter. Beispiele aus der Kunsttherapie.

Forum für Kunsttherapien – Die Fachzeitschrift des GPK, 47(1), 8-11.


Academy of Fine Arts Munich (GER) /

Senta Connert (
Katja Bonnländer ( )