Towards the Improvisation of Space

Posted on Mrz 14, 2018 in / Serial IFIT / Serial Publications / Works of 2018

essay in: Filozofski vestnik. Utopias and Alternatives Thinking Differently / Thinking Something Different

Edited by / Sous la direction de Jelica Šumič Riha XXXVIII | 3/2017

Izdaja | Published by Filozofski inštitut ZRC SAZU, Institute of Philosophy at SRC SASA

Ljubljana 2017


“When the concept of heterotopia is applied not only to space but also to its users

it becomes possible to account for those creative practices that take place on

the frontier between places, thus enabling the emergence of new spatial-temporal

configurations in which the process of subjectivation can only deploy itself.

While the concept of heterotopia does not automatically imply emancipation,

for it relates to a complex of irreconcilable spaces in which one remains entangled

in obscure networks of power beyond anyone’s control, it nevertheless

gestures towards those liminal sites where the stitches by which the dominant

discourse strives to hold together a heterogeneous reality become visible, thus

providing an opportunity for an unforeseeable transformation of the present

conditions. Or, in the words of Christopher Dell, “it is always possible for urban

actors to find a gap in any power regime in order to try out and experiment on

new ways of socialising spatiality.” (…)

The architectural principles of mobility, flexibility, improvisation, and renunciation

of construction, dear to Friedman, speak thematically to the final three essays

in this volume, which reveal the utopian perspective materialised in theories

and practices in architecture and design in order to explore the potential for

a radically transformative thinking in these two fields. Architecture and design

converge toward the same aspiration: engaged in a process of subjectification,

which is itself a consequence of a displacement of their conceptual practices –

due to grappling with the heterogeneity of the real – architecture and design

aim at opening the space for a rethinking of the social and political space.

This architecture’s ability to use the unpredictable in order to re-invent, to make

new spaces that emerge alongside new urban objects, is at the foreground of

Christopher Dell’s essay, “Towards the Improvisation of Space”. The thorny

question of the “right to the city” is raised here from the perspective of contingency

considered “as a positive resource of the city” insofar as it “shifts the

focus away from the city as object towards the city as process.” As a response to

the transformations of ways of life and the mutations of spatial and built morphologies,

the city, considered as “a space of possibility” in a constant state of

flux, is transformed into “a social laboratory.” Taking into account the constantly

changing urban practices in unforeseeable, contingent situations requires

a radical transformation of urbanism: a move away from static solutions to a

mobile urbanism that can be understood as “the technology of improvisation”

capable of rapid alterations and re-utilisations in response to the needs and desires

of the city’s inhabitants. This new way of thinking, which requires such

a “fluctuating urbanity,” is one that “reads the city as an unfolding of action

situations,” states Dell, and thus opens up a space for emancipatory gestures.”

Riha, Jelica: Introduction: The Imaginary and its Utopian Potential


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Filozofski vestnik (ISSN 0353-4510) is edited and published by the Institute of Philosophy

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