Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Spanu, S.
Architecture and the heterotopic concept(2020) Urban Book Series, Springer, pp. 239-386. First Online: 03 May 2019

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-18259-5_4

The present chapter proposes the outlining and identification of the main instances of the concept of heterotopia as it has been employed and observed in the field of architecture and urban planning, or in other words, the conceptualisation of alterity and the methods in which it is employed. Thus, whether it is a design methodology or an architectural composition technique, it is deliberately employed so as to create alterity; it can also operate as a device for compatibility or interconnectivity, as a centralizing formula, or simply not only as a go-to solution for creating iconic objects, but also as a mnemonic dispositif. The attempts to identify an architectural heterotopic profile have managed to pinpoint as heterotopic either architectural typologies, specific architectural languages or certain functions, either have led to the condensation of specific design methodologies (deliberate creation of alterity), engaging numerous advocates (Porphyrios, Jencks, Teyssot, Tafuri). From a strictly formal reading of heterotopia, as a deliberately created architectural discontinuity (volumetric, spatial)—as seen in Porphyrios—the approaches gradually steer towards a more nuanced interpretation—as seen in Jencks, the heterotopia as an organism (architectural and urban form as well as functioning).

The annulment of alterity is discussed in the context of urban planning. Throughout the chapter, the relations developed by the heritage space as well as by the heritage object have been steadily observed, be it a built object, built ensemble of the area and recognized or not within the official heritage frame. The heterotopic spaces are finally identified in the stance of the heritage object. These approaches reflect different degrees of relating to and intervening in the historic fabric, yet all sharing the necessity of its conservation, for its capacity to act as a reference point, as a source for its own postmodern expressions (local/regional typologies) and as the already crystallized context in which the postmodern intervention must be accommodated. Shifting the focus onto heritage, the issue of authenticity is discussed, in relation to the postmodern architectural search and expression of traditional types. Assimilated and similar until indiscernible, the intervention in the heritage built fabric, the very context it values and it invokes as model and source. This sensitive issue of the heritage object and fabric is discussed in relation to the architectural production and the discourse of postmodern architecture (Quinlan Terry, Christopher Alexander and others) as well as through the connected issue of authenticity or reconstruction.

Based on these, the research has pursued the identification of the heterotopic character of the heritage space, along Foucault’s coordinates and through the restoration intervention—which ultimately reflects the perception and conceptualisation of heritage. The analysis of the various interpretations of alterity and of the concept of heterotopia unfolded in this chapter, focus on the identification of a space-oriented and heritage-oriented reading. The evolution of the attitudes towards heritage as well as its perceptions—given its transition towards a more objective “gaze”, the accumulation of meanings, the creation of and the relationship with the heritage ideal, the impact of the official status previously analysed—can explain the way in which the heritage object and the heritage space acquire heterotopic coordinates. © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020.

Author Keywords
Architectural heterotopias; Heritage as heterotopia; Historicist language; Intentional alterity; Other spaces; Philosophy of conservation; Reconstruction

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