MUSEUM OF HISTORICAL MEMORY
University of East London
In my last year at the University of East London I developed a series of interventions located in Portbou, Spain.
Portbou is a town that has been neglected and forgotten as if frozen in time. Strategically located where the Pyrenees mountains meets the Mediterraneum sea, at the border between France and Spain. Portbou has lost both of its main economic activities; the customs offices at the border and the interchange train terminal where passengers and goods had to transfer trains due to the different track gauges between Spain and the rest of Europe.
Philosopher Walter Benjamin commited suicide in Portbou whilst trying to escape from the Nazis. More than half a million refugees fled the country during the Spanish Civil War. Its people have witnessed many stories, parts of which have been noted down in history. The town still has many secrets to share that have lost their meaning and importance. Portbou’s essence is still waiting to be uncovered.
My final year project at University of East London consisted of a series of interventions to bring attention to this overlooked Spanish town, along the public route that runs through the border between Spain and France. The same route where most of the exiles fled during the war.
The three interventions:
1. To transform an abandoned building next to a train station into a museum. The Museum of Historical Memory (MHM) will be a place for critical reflection on the multilayered and rich history of Portbou. An interpretation centre which recalls the period of the Spanish Civil War and the forty years of Franco’s dictatorship. The museum will be a contemplative space that will encourage visitors to explore the archives through permanent and temporary exhibitions. There will be dedicated rooms for research and educational purposes.
2. The Tramuntana Platform is a view point on the way up to the border where one can take a moment to reflect and look back at Portbou. It is also a space to experience the strong Tramontana wind overlooking the sea.
3. A water fountain at the border between Spain and France. A place to rest, to drink, and to listen. The historical site has witnessed the Spanish exile during the civil war