Design Impact Vol. 5: Power, Equity, Memory, Erasure: Memorials and the Making of Historic Narrative

Design Impact Vol. 5: Following the Sun: Design Futures at the Intersection of Health, Equity and Climate Change is a global virtual summit sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Alumni Council. Launching Thursday, September 23rd, the summit brings together an outstanding roster of global leaders to share their work and vision at the intersection of health, climate change and equity. This inspiring, two-day virtual summit transcends regional and national boundaries to unite our global community of practice, challenging us to use design as a tool for actionable, transformative change, and healing.

Session 7: Power, Equity, Memory, Erasure: Memorials and the Making of Historic Narrative

Recent debates on such political and cultural phenomena as Confederate monuments or the erasure of cultural artifacts have put into high relief the role of memorials as a statement of hegemony, raising questions as: Who controls the historic narrative? What is the purpose of commemoration: to mourn, to celebrate, to inspire, to subjugate? Are traditional forms of commemorative inspiration latently coercive? Central to the discussion is the definition of identity at the individual, social group, and national level, and how is this identity reinforced or challenged by a memorial? Are certain memorial typologies or design languages inherently inclusive or hegemonic? And are there new forms of commemoration—digital, ephemeral, changeable—that speak more equitably to a collective experience? Power, Equity, Memory & Erasure: Memorials and the Making of Historical Narratives addresses the possibilities of a more equitable statement of collective consciousness, involving a multiplicity of responses that encourage dialogue rather than fixed statements about the past.

Session Leads:
David A. Rubin, FASLA, FAAR, Founding Principal, DAVID RUBIN Land Collective
Thomas Luebke, FAIA, Secretary, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Washington DC
Kristina Yu, Architect, Educator, McClain+Yu Architecture and Design, University of New Mexico
Peter Coombe, AIA, Principal, Sage and Coombe Architects, GSD Alumni Council Chair

C. Brian Rose, James B. Pritchard Professor of Archaeology, Professor of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Justin Garrett Moore, Program Officer, Humanities in Place at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Dell Upton, Professor Emeritus of Architecture, UC Berkeley and Professor and Chair of Art History at UCLA

Moderator: Alaa Hamid MDes 2022

Research Assistant: Miranda Coombe

To learn more about the Design Impact event series, visit To learn more about ways to support the Harvard Graduate School of Design, visit



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