‘Memory in Suspension’

Chinatown Lost and Found


  • Linda Zhang Ryerson University School of Interior Design




ethnocultural heritage, photogrammetry, 3Dscanning, archival technology, Chinatown


Who holds the right to decide what gets remembered? Conversely, the right to forget? The interior architecture installation, Memory in Suspension, exhibited in Toronto’s Chinatown West as part of Museum of Toronto’s 2020 Intersections Festival at Cecil Community Centre, combines new and old technologies to tell the forgotten stories, wilful omissions, and accumulation of silences that exist beyond Toronto’s official heritage definition of its Chinatown neighbourhoods. Foregrounding the lack of records and archival materials available, Memory in Suspension develops an alternative approach to heritage reconstruction when confronted with a historically significant interior which has no architectural records or documentation. By unearthing the unrecorded histories of the first Chinese owned business in Toronto, Sam Ching & Co. Chinese Laundry, we explore what marginalised communities have known for some time—namely, all that is recorded is not necessarily all that is, and what is remembered extends far beyond what is recorded. Through interior architecture, Chinatown Lost and Found asks what we choose to remember and which tools and technologies keep those memories alive. This article explores how interior architecture can create a dialogue between official history and the associative nature of lived experience. Learning from these productive tensions, we suggest how interior architecture can use old and new archival technologies to empower community stakeholders to safeguard the future heritage(s) of Toronto’s Chinatowns. In particular, this article links 3D scanning technologies to community memory and marginalisation to pursue a dynamic and reversal-based interior architecture approach that critically positions how subjects inhabit, constitute and are constituted by the spaces in which they find themselves. In doing so, this article offers a more holistic approach and account of the instability of space and time in relation to memory and heritage for interior architectural practice.


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How to Cite

Zhang, Linda. 2020. “‘Memory in Suspension’: Chinatown Lost and Found”. Idea Journal 17 (01):237-57. https://doi.org/10.37113/ij.v17i01.358.