Memory Tower

Memory Tower is a full-immersion virtual reality installation based at the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE) at Duke University in the US. The piece explores the relationship between the lived experience of memory and the biological mechanisms underlying memory encoding and consolidation.

The capacity to record our daily experiences in memory allows us to extract knowledge and rules about the world around us. Through this vital function, we can act in accordance with what we have previously experienced as well as be prepared for what we may encounter in the future. Information that has been encoded in the brain during waking experience, however, is not initially stable, being susceptible to disruption. Indeed, it is only through a process of memory consolidation that these new labile memories can be transformed into a more stable, long-lasting form. Memory consolidation operates at a number of levels, including changes in the strength of connectivity between assemblies of neurons as well as the reorganization and redistribution of memory representations between brain areas. As we sleep, the cyclic change between ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) sleep and ‘slow wave sleep’ (SWS) is thought to optimize many of these memory consolidation processes.

In Memory Tower, the nature of autobiographical memory formation and consolidation during sleep is reflected through the use of historical architectural motifs. These serve as visual metaphors for the content and structure of memory traces and the neural operations in which they are involved during sleep states. Through creating a rich cityscape that encompasses the episodic/semantic and spatial facets of our daily experiences, the work aims to extend beyond a reductionist description of memory content and to acknowledge notions of collective human experience and history. Thus, at the heart of the Memory Tower is not only a scientific narrative about sleep’s role in memory consolidation made visible through the cultural lens of architecture, but a deeper investigation into our own unique and irreducible experiences with sleep and memory.



  • Memory Tower was developed in collaboration Dr Rachael Brady (former director of Duke University’s Visualization Technology Group) and David J. Zielinski. With thanks also to Holton Thompson and Yang Su at Duke University.


  • Senior TJ (2014). Der Weg zum Memory Tower. In “ArteFakte. Wissen ist Kunst – Kunst ist Wissen“. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (accepted)


  • Senior TJ (2011). Memory Tower. Aboagora symposium – Rethinking enlightenment (Turku, Finland).
  • Senior TJ (2011). Memory Tower.Subtle Technologies Festival (Toronto). 


  • CHAT Festival – Duke University (2012)
  • SIGGRAPH (2009) – 36th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques – (New Orleans). 

Invited Talks:

  • Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften: Salon Sophie Charlotte: Wissen ist Kunst – Kunst ist Wissen (22.01.12)
  • Lighthouse venue in Brighton, UK (30.11.10)
  • New Media Institute in Frankfurt, Germany (09.11.10)
  • John Hope Franklin Centre, Duke University, US (10.02.09)