HETEROTOPIAS IN
URBAN TRANSFORMATION

 

According to the French philosopher Foucault there are places, landscapes, buildings and open squares, which one cannot find on a map nor in reality. They are utopias in our narratives and in our fantasies. They are places we dream.

 

But there are also ‘places’ called heterotopias. Heterotopias are places, which are real, but in distance to ‘the reality’. They can also be called counter-places to reality, because they are not subject to a particular codex, but they exist on another premise than normally. Heterotopias create space for our fantasies, thoughts and dreams, and they construct an opposition to the real reality. You can be present in another way than in your daily life.

 

The temporary city

The temporary festival city, Roskilde Festival is the largest northern European cultural- and music festival and has existed since 1971. The festival, is an idea and vision that becomes real and a counter place that invites into ‘another reality’. Roskilde Festival is a heterotopia. Through its more diverse aesthetic language and a relaxed free-and-easy urban design the festival shows how open urban space can be created. Partly as a cultural space, but also as a temporary space that is an alternative to or an exemption from everyday life.

 

If we understand Roskilde festival as a successful urban laboratory there are interesting perspectives and learnings from the physical planning of the festival that urban planning can learn from.

 

The agora and the circle structure

In the old Greek city-states, the agora was the physical centre and the driver of citizenship and community. The location, design and décor of the agora influenced human’s consciousness, behavior, and being together, and was a mental and social approach in this ages urban transformation that strengthened the social meeting between humans.

 

In 2008 parts of the camping area with 80.000 inhabitants was outlined in circle structures that introduced a new order on the campsite. The circle structure defined more communities as an overall organic plan with an agora in the centre as a natural meeting point. Every community defined a living area for approximately 135 inhabitants. The area supported the meetings, relational activities, trust and ownership between and for festival guests.

 

The contemporary city

In contrast to the counter-place Roskilde Festival, the contemporary city is a well-oiled and efficient machine where the aesthetic and creative aspects have become permanent, individual and foreign. Presence has become alienated, and only momentary presence has become the ordinary.

 

The contemporary city is a neutral and controlled city, displacing space for human diversity. Cities still have agoras where different perspectives can meet. The city’s public space is still an open stage with specific spaces defined by their use and by the orientation of users. However, the city is primarily formed on the basis of an economic and functional perspective. The controlled and governed city makes sense in a political and architectural perspective, however it seldom makes sense for the people living in the city.

 

There is less time to the community – to the space of the agora. Potentials are locked and does not unfold in the rational, or rather reduced city.

 

The future – heterotopias in urban transformation

Can we introduce a new and more organic agenda in ‘the reality’ of today? Can we create more present time? We need more counter spaces. We need more heterotopias. Can heterotopias change our way of thinking about architecture, everyday life and refugee camps?