Some places are unreachable – they slip quietly off the map, lost to the past. Yet the important ones, the ones that have outgrown their walls and woven themselves into your very bones, signify an immortal instant of childhood, or growth, or love. They are the architecture of your history. Here are six people’s untraceable, but unforgotten, places. 

Text by Rosa Barba, Chris Dercon, Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer, Aino Laberenz, Burhan Qurbani and Leif Randt.



There’s a memory – a map of memories – that is quite important to me. It’s the memory of a place that I have never been, and accessing it will forever be tainted for me. It’s the home of my parents. Of course, I could take the same route that they used to take in the 1980s and y by plane from Frankfurt to Kabul – backwards so to speak. But the Afghanistan that I would nd upon arrival would still be a di erent one to the one my parents told me about, the one they passed on to me. 


That place emits an overly bright array of colours: the sun is shining warmer, the sky is glowing more blue, the fruit tastes sweeter and the people’s smiles are friendlier than anywhere else. This second-hand memory is the reason I shy away from visiting Afghanistan. The sad reality of this country, torn apart by 35 years of war, could only break my heart. The title of Siba Shakib’s novel captures this fear pretty well: Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep. 



I was lucky enough to have the chance to spend several amazing years in Friedenstraße 62. A former liquor distillery transformed into studios for artists and musicians, it became the home of artist Soulis Moustakidis after he left Greece and came to Dus- seldorf to study under Joseph Beuys during the 1970s as one of his nal masters students. The building had an outdoor rooftop library, lled with art books and surrounded by Greek plants, which we named the “green saloon.” The main room was a spacious hall, maybe 30 metres in height, which served as a studio for painting, sculpture, music and photography, and which had a central, open kitchen complete with bar where visitors would share meals and let time pass by.


We slept in the old liquor tanks that Soulis had transformed into bedrooms, and I personally loved working in the photo laboratory, which was tucked in the top of the house under the roof of the hangar. The entire house was a place of discussion, cooking, music and inventions; Soulis invented new customs of cohabiting, rarely selling the works of art he made, instead exchanging them for the things he needed, such as ne sa ron that he would use to make dinner for his friends. He also used this system of exchange to great e ect with the nearby cheese shop, laundry and cocktail bar. However, after the rent rose to insane levels in 2006, Soulis could no longer a ord the house, and he moved back to Athens where he died soon after. 




Commissioned by King Leopold II of Belgium and designed by French architect Charles Girault, the Musée de Tervuren (or, to use its official title, The Royal Museum for Central Africa) is 110 years old and located on the greens of Tervuren, a residential village in the south of Brussels. I spent many of my teenage years both inside and outside this museum. I thought it was phantasmagorical and spooky; fantastic and chilling. Indeed, even if the museum unashamedly exhibitedthe brutalities of Belgium's exploitative colonial past, the sheer beauty of the objects on view could not be dismissed. The museum has a vast collection of around 125,000 African artefacts and documents. 



During my youth, I had many fantasies – as well as nightmares – about the masks, costumes, textiles,  tools, plants, insects, and even the huge animals in the dioramas and photographs. These displays represented the first of my global travels;  as a young child I was lucky enough to stage a performance with the enormous heads of a giraffe, a zebra and even a tiger, all belonging to the museum. Now, the museum is being renovated by Flemish star architect Stéphane Beel and will reopen in 2017. The current director and his team are among the most radical curators in the country, and they are determined not to hide how Belgium spent more than a hundred years self-righteously appropriating the pitiful stories of its colonies. Friends of mine, African artists such as photographer Sammy Baloji, are eagerly participating in this “deconstruction.” I will therefore be both happy and proud to be able to return to my favourite place very soon. 


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In the early 1990s, when the rst true digital natives had just been born, I often went through Frankfurt holding my father’s hand, to shop for imported Game Boy games. There was a small shop somewhere between Hauptwache and Römer – it must have had a name, but we always just called it the “import shop.” We headed there on a few golden Saturdays of the year – at the very least, before Easter and my birthday. The bright walls of the small shop were covered in cardboard boxes with Japanese characters, shaped di erently than the German boxes though they contained the same small modules.


In a glass case, obscure adapters for the Sega Mega Drive and Nintendo Entertainment System were preserved for sale, and the young, taciturn men who worked in the store were fans of the expensive Neo Geo console for which there were almost only combat games. My heart beat wildly in the shop, which indirectly told me of a larger world, a market of the future, beyond Germany. I’m sure my father tried to conduct o hand conversations with the young men, and I didn’t nd that embarrassing yet. I was under ten, after all, and one of just two connoisseurs in my primary school class in possession of Game Boy games in their original Japanese packaging. The shop closed down around 1994. 



It smelled of dry pine. Steam from mutton skewers drifted up through the branches, carried by a hesitant mistral breeze. The bark and pine needles were dipped in latesummer tones – faded olive and ochre, calming and serene hues that, in the distance, merged into a blur with the blue, smoky sky. The smells of Languedoc. I’d pilfered the old boards and twine for my tree house from the nearby rubbish heaps of abandoned fairground camps. 


I was a seven-year-old melancholic. A seven-year-old who’d climbed much too high for his age. I heard my extended family gathered around the re, laughing and telling wistful stories of the erstwhile Algerian home. I loved them deeply. Their Mediterranean vivacity and warmth, their wit and intellectual nonconformity. But I preferred to be alone on my deck at unreachable heights. Deep inner peace. A place carried away by wind and weather. In me, it still exists.