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Out of sight, out of mind

Back in 2004, during a period where my work largely dealt with architecture, I visited Asmara. Though that trip originally had nothing to do with the built urban environment, it became a turning point of sorts. For one, I was mesmerised by the city’s brick and mortar heritage - some 400+ modernist buildings from the 1930s and 1940s in various states of repair and disrepair. The biggest impact however, was that it left me with many questions; I found myself mentally circling around notions of memory, amnesia and heritage. In an effort to learn about that city’s history, I began a quest for sources on its Italian colonial past and architectural endowment. Asmara is home to one of the largest collections of buildings reflecting numerous Modernist movements, including Novecento, Art Deco, Rationalism, Futurism and Monumentalist architecture.   Given that significance, it seemed natural that such a remarkable city would be, or should be recorded in various bodies of knowledge. Ostensibly, it would be mentioned in dissertations, documented in glossy art books, and be part of innumerable intellectual discussions on architecture, or Fascist propaganda and nation-building. For instance...