The Bartlett School of Architecture


Katy Beinart



Salted Earth: revealing traces and reconfiguring identities in contested sites of migrant history in 20th Century London

First and second supervisors 


Sites of 'Salted Earth', (a term first used to refer to District 6, an area of Cape Town, South Africa demolished by the Apartheid Government), are places loaded with memory, often contested by different communities with different versions of history. These sites can be read as Luckhurst (2002) suggests a reading of ghosts: 'they appear precisely as symptoms, points of rupture that insist their singular tale be retold and their wrongs acknowledged.'

My research seeks to redress the loss of migrant and diasporic histories in public spaces of contested history. While migrants can be seen to rewrite the script of the city (Cairns, 2004), these traces are often erased by subsequent developments that neutralise 'heritage', subduing claims on current politics of place.

Contested sites call for a particular approach to reconstructing identity. This project explores how architecture and spatial practices can be used as instruments to reveal and memorialise the invisible, and how participatory approaches can renew these processes. At the intersection between art and architecture, this provides a basis to critique existing modes of memorialisation, and to return to Derrida's (1989) reading of the revenant as offering possibilities of repoliticising the present.

Salt as a material overlaps histories, and has strong links to migration, ritual, and preservation across cultures. Using 'Salted Earth' as material and metaphor, I propose a 'desalination' process that reveals traces and makes them visible.

Developing intuitive methodologies to work with emotionally contested sites, I will create interventions that draw out emotion. This provides an opportunity, through social interactions, to assist in developing new identities of place, and new networks that are the basis for fresh processes of place-making.

The intention is therefore to test strategies that interweave practices to 'heal' contested sites, and to uncover traces in specific places, creating an archive of material which highlights their hidden histories.


Katy trained in architecture at the Bartlett and Oxford Brookes University, and has a Masters in Development Practice. She worked in architectural practice and community development, and since 2004, has developed a successful practice as an artist specialising in working in the public realm.

In 2007 she received the Art Plus Award for Art in Public Places from the Arts Council England. She has completed commissions for galleries, hospitals, schools, and communities, exhibited in the UK and abroad, and worked extensively as an educator, teaching architecture at University of West London (formerly TVU) as well as working in schools and gallery education.


  • Arts Council England (for Brixton Market residency and exhibition)
  • Beacon Bursary (from the UCL public engagement unit)