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Deviant Heterotopias

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It is in the authors’ view that we currently reside in an Apollonian society, beset with constrictive regulations and embedded norms that limit our creative occupation of space. In effect, public space is dead: everything is owned, constrained by agenda, controlled with purpose, made a-political for political means. However, marginal land, often overlooked or viewed with a pejorative mindset, contains a final vestige of freedom. Within lies the potential to critique the city, subverting its coded regulations as a heterotopia of deviance: a place for marginal and unwelcome communities; a dreamland for Urban Explorers; an experimental playground for new forms of inhabitation and urban ecology. This study reveals these activities and challenges the perception of the margin, exploring its subversive nature, instigating the reclamation of memory and identity whilst suggesting how these activities can cause a (re)evaluation of the contemporary urban realm.

Text of Deviant Heterotopias

  • Deviant Heterotopias:

    Exploring the Margin as Subversive Territory in the City

    Jonathan MillardMArch Dissertation

    October 2010

  • It is in the authors view that we currently reside in an Apollonian society, beset with constrictive regulations and embedded norms that limit our creative occupation of space. In effect, public space is dead: everything is owned, constrained by agenda, controlled with purpose, made a-political for political means. However, marginal land, often overlooked or viewed with a pejorative mindset, contains a final vestige of freedom. Within lies the potential to critique the city, subverting its coded regulations as a heterotopia of deviance: a place for marginal and unwelcome communities; a dreamland for Urban Explorers; an experimental playground for new forms of inhabitation and urban ecology. This study reveals these activities and challenges the perception of the margin, exploring its subversive nature, instigating the reclamation of memory and identity whilst suggesting how these activities can cause a (re)evaluation of the contemporary urban realm.

    Jonathan MillardOctober 2010

    Abstract/

  • With many thanks to Florian Kossak for his insight, Rachael Jones for proof reading, and

    all who have shown interest and support.

  • Introduction

    One: Memory----------One- Memory and Architecture----------Two- Post Industrial Voids- Authenticity of Remembering----------Three- Imagination and Involuntary Memory

    Two: The City----------Four- Sense and the City- Place in the City----------Five- Spaces: Other-Places----------Six

    Three: Encountering the Margin----------Seven- Urbex: Seeking Places- Fantasy / Discovery----------Eight- The Resident and the Tourist

    Four: Conclusions

    bibliography - image credits

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    Contents/

  • 91. Georg Simmel, Die Grosstadte und das Geiestesleben (1903); translated as the Metropolis and Mental Life, in The Sociology of Georg Simmel, ed. Kurt H. Wolff (New York: Free Press, 1950). 409. quoted in Stephen Sartarelli, Manfredo Tafuri: Towards a Critique of Architectural Ideology, in Architecture Theory Since 1968, ed. Michael K Hays, 2-36 (London: The MIT Press, 1998). 2

    The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual

    to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the

    technique of life.1

    Georg Simmel (1903)

    Introduction/

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    2. Tim Edensor, Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality (Paris: Berg Publishers, 2005). 17

    Over a century later, Simmels statement still strikes parallels with life in the city today. It is evident that we are currently residing in an increasingly Apollonian society, where a desire to order, organize and regulate everything, including urban space, is becoming a pervasive condition. Despite the obvious need for order and rational, it has been suggested that:

    the disciplinary, performative, aestheticised urban praxis demanded by commercial and bureaucratic regimes which are refashioning cities into realms of surveillance, consumption and dwelling is becoming too dominant2

    What impact does this control have? Dylan Trigg offers insight. He sets out how perception (and therefore, imagination) is intrinsically linked to memory, referring to the work of philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941). Trigg narrates: in experiencing my context, I do so with orientation to the memories that have preceded me. Consequently, those aspects of my context that reveal themselves to me will do so in connection to the memories that have already formed my experience.3 Therefore, we must be concerned with the diminishing level of sensory diversity and juxtaposed occupation of spaces that we experience daily in the city; that memory in the city might be placed under the constraints of commodification and mediatisation which stage hegemonic inscriptions upon space.4 With the apparent decreasing level of sensuality afforded by the contemporary urban realm, this should facilitate a reassessment of the way in which architects and designers, view and construct places within the city.

    I believe there is therefore a requirement for spaces of resistance, perhaps even of subversion, in order to counter this pervasively controlled realm. This study aims to reveal that these spaces already exist, hidden by their general disregard but present throughout every city, being eminently engaging, progressive and suggestive of a reassessment of the current methods of urban design.

    Cupers and Miessen introduce these spaces as the margin. Their use of this word comes from its somewhat contradictory and multiple meanings, suggesting both its use as creating structure and being the unstructured surround; an edge or limit; a functionless content.5 Margin is also suggestive of being cast aside, rendered unimportant or insignificant. All of these meanings resonate in architecture: the margins are the inbetween spaces, delineated by

    3. Dylan Trigg, The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the Absence of Reason (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006). 22

    4. Tim Edensor, Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality (Paris: Berg Publishers, 2005). 170

    5. Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen, Spaces of Uncertainty (Wuppertal: Muller and Busmann, 2002). 102-105

  • 12

    architectural edge, those deemed unnecessary, unfunctional, uneconomical, undesirable. They are the white spaces on the figure-ground plan, the voids in the urban fabric.

    Many of these spaces we know as urban wastelands: a tag furthering the overarching pejorative mindset that disregards spaces of dereliction and abandonment as the territory of vagrants, rejects, criminals, places of illegal and illicit acts; an opinion perpetuated by the media and the political hegemony. However, Tim Edensor goes on to argue that such spaces (particularly the industrial ruin) can act as a method of critique. His focus is to contest the notion that ruins are spaces of waste, that contain nothing, or nothing of value, and that they are places saturated with negativity as spaces of danger, delinquency, ugliness and disorder.6 Instead, his intent is to reveal their potential as sites for transgressive and playful activities (beyond the dystopian prognoses of bureaucrats and planners7), surprise, tactile sensuality and encounters with space and materiality, in stark juxtaposition to the produced landscapes evident in our cities. His understanding is that by embracing the possibility to step outside of societies heavily prescribed social norms, ruins allow the potential to critique the construction of our social and built environment, through aesthetic divergence and sensual disordering that is largely absent in the city.8

    In many ways, we have all encountered the margin over our lifetime. Looking back, it was on marginal land where I learnt to ride a bike, where we played bulldog behind the scout-hut, where friends met to smoke, drink, kiss girls and escape their parents; where many people first drive a car. Far from being un-functional, these are places that have afforded important experiences: in fact, we should understand that the margin fundamentally challenges the meaning of the word function. In the margin, functions become activities, practices and opportunities.9

    Excitingly, these experiences or encounters are increasingly sought and desired in marginal spaces. The Urban Exploration movement has grown exponentially over the last decade, suggesting a subconscious movement that rejects the order, homogenization, strict controls and continual commercial bombardment that pervades the modern city and seeks out discovery, narrative, autonomy, retreat and risk.

    6. Tim Edensor, Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality (Paris: Berg Publishers, 2005). 7

    7. Ibid. 166

    8. Ibid. 169

    9. Kenny Cupers and Markus Miessen, Spaces of Uncertainty (Wuppertal: Muller and Busmann, 2002). 122

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    The impact of these issues on architecture has been limited: either through a lack of awareness, or a feeling of irrelevance. Through an investigation of marginal spaces, this study aims to explore the creative occupational uses we find in these spaces and suggests how this subversion is indicative of fundamental elements to life that the city declines to support. This study therefore challenges the perception of the margin, exploring its subversive nature, instigating the reclamation of memory and identity whilst suggesting how these activities can cause a (re)evaluation of the contemporary urban realm.

    This work draws on writers who focus upon derelict spaces, particularly that of Tim Edensor and Gill Doron, as well as the Urbex subculture; all of who promote and accentuate the possibilities in such ruinous spaces. The study is split into two discrete narratives: the first, a literary based investigation into marginal and ruinous places and their place in the city, with particular regard to memory and the senses, which I identify as threatened modes in the modern city. The second is a personal dialect of thoughts, feelings and experiences that punctuate the discourse: an ethnological account in words and photographs that adds an alternative layer of argument. The intent is for more personal understanding of these spaces and the practices within.

    The primary narrative is therefore structured in the following fashion:

    Part One covers memory in relation to architecture. Here, the margin is explored in relation to its memory and history, with particular arguments made

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