The Memory of Love: The Springthorpe Memorial in Australia as Haptic Memoryscape

Spicer, Chrystopher (2021) The Memory of Love: The Springthorpe Memorial in Australia as Haptic Memoryscape. Markers, 37. pp. 92-119.

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On a high rise of the Boroondara Cemetery in the Melbourne suburb of Kew stands one of Australia’s most beautiful and unique memorial buildings. There is an intriguing air of mystery about it for the visitor, for no name can be seen anywhere. The light streaming down through the remarkable stained glass dome onto the red-tiled floor reveals only a series of dates, along with verses of praise and lament. However, there was no secret about its provenance during the design and construction of the building and its original garden between 1897 and 1907: it was common knowledge that it commemorated the life and death of Annie Springthorpe, late wife of prominent Melbourne surgeon, Dr. John William Springthorpe. Still known as the Springthorpe Memorial, it is a moving example of the memorial as memoryscape: a complex series of meanings encoded into a place, such as a memorial, that enriches our perception of it while, at the same time, we also perceive the memorial as enriching the landscape space around it because of the relationships between its private and public functions as a place for memory, meditation, healing, and engagement. That the Springthorpe Memorial is such a successful combination of mnemonic, meditative, sacred, and haptic space is largely due to the close intellectual and artistic relationship between the client, Dr. Springthorpe, and his architect Harold Desbrowe-Annear. It is also due to the relationship of those two men with the internationally prominent Australian sculptor, (Edgar) Bertram Mackennal, who was then living and working in London. Consequently, this Memorial is a conscious combination of art, architectural design, and function that, while commemorating private grief and loss, was nevertheless imagined from the outset to also be a visually prominent and meaningful place of public commemoration with which the visitor seeking consolation could engage. As such, the Springthorpe Memorial exemplifies the complexities of meaning and relationship that form the memorial memoryscape.

Item ID: 77196
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0227-8726
Keywords: Springthorpe Memorial; Dr John Springthorpe; Annie Springthorpe;Desbrowe Annear; memorial; haptic; space;landscape; Bertram Mackennal; Boroondara Cemetery; grief.
Copyright Information: Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved.
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2023 00:59
FoR Codes: 33 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 3301 Architecture > 330103 Architectural heritage and conservation @ 50%
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4702 Cultural studies > 470208 Culture, representation and identity @ 25%
33 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 3301 Architecture > 330109 Landscape architecture @ 25%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130703 Understanding Australia’s past @ 40%
13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130205 Visual communication @ 30%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280104 Expanding knowledge in built environment and design @ 30%
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