Constructing heterotopia | A. Sebastian Schulte, Martin Kolev, Xaveer Roodbeen, Luca Bussolino
Charleroi, Belgium | 2017
“The project explores the philosophical definition of heterotopia by Michel Foucault and the seven sins of Dante’s inferno as allegorical motives to a revitalisation of Charleroi. The design critiques the habitual patterns of revitalisation through large-scale architectural projects and landscape interventions. Instead seven smaller interventions with varying programs of sin are placed along a dilapidated train line in a ‘heterotopian’ and neglected industrial park. Throughout the project the ephemeral nature of architecture and its speculative qualities are highlighted.”
The studio began with an analysis the post-industrial landscape of Charleroi, where we recognises its potential for alternative development and other ways of conceiving architecture and society. Departing from a “derive” in the understanding of the city of Charleroi we were able to identify the great liberty and space that exists in this society. It is these qualities that lead us to identify the condition of other spaces, as defined by Michel Foucault in 1967, pertinent to Charleroi and its disused industrial centres. Charleroi impresses with a spatial configuration that departs from the commonly known conditions of private, public, work and leisure space. These sites in Charleroi are heterotopia.
Our projects acts within, on, against and for heterotopia. It does not destroy heterotopia. It allows us to juxtapose the heterotopian condition with elements otherwise incompatible and unimaginable within the society as we know it. The space of the site is occupied, however, it leaves other spaces that are free to be occupied according to the synchronicities of a society. In contrast to the theatrical and animation need of cities for economic development, for the new and for productivity, the site offers another way of occupying space. In our projects these are the seven liturgical sins, as observed and documented in Charleroi and its citizens. Following the six principles outlined by Michel Foucault our project is aligned with those essential traits of heterotopia:
1] Heterotopias take varied forms, but exist across all cultures. Our project is specific to Charleroi and the concrete realisation of heterotopia, which is present there. It draws, however, a principle of recognising and acting on the heterotopia. In this reading the project is prototypical in they ability to access heterotopia, yet specific to its context.
2] Heterotopias can change their function over time, allowing for adaption to society. Our ambition to change part of the function of heterotopia is a direct reading of this concept. They are adoptable and non permanent.
3] Like a theatre the heterotopia is able to juxtapose in a single place, elements that are otherwise incompatible. We bring seven provocative activities into one site, ultimately highlighting this quality of heterotopia. It is only the quality of heterotopia that allows us to place the activities of the seven sins in the site.
4] “Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time.” This condition is coined by Foucault as heterochronies. This is an effect highlighted by our intervention. Loosing sense of time, passing through the endless internalised spaces of sin and its lack of relationship to the outside.
5] “Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable.” Our project works on the condition of this edge. Recognising a layered state of accessibility in heterotopia our projects are in themselves an experience of access. They are hindrance and regime of access at the same time.
6] “The last trait of heteropias is that they have a function in relation to all the space that remains.” The project relates to its immediate surroundings and its development. The context is the purpose of the project. The space that remains can take many forms of heterotopia in the future. It can be developed, similar to the famous leisure parks or it falls back into the ruinous quality of a paradisiacal garden. Both of these conditions are heterotopian in their own right and yet they depend on the project. It is in this speculative space of emergence that our project takes place and assumes space. The project deconstructs and reconstructs heterotopia at the same time, leaving the interpretation to society’s actors.
About Luca Bussolino
Luca Bussolino is a master student of architecture, attending a double degree course at both, Politecnico di Torino and Politecnico di Milano. At the moment, he is pursuing his master thesis, which deals with an intervention of humanitarian architecture in Cambodia. In addition, he is following a complementary specialisation path in innovation management. After having spent one year studying in Paris at ENSA of la Villette, he also spent one term at TU Delft during his master.
About Martin Kolev
Martin Kolev is currently in his Master at Delft University of Technology and has formerly studied at Technische Universität München and Sapienza Università di Roma. He has previously worked with OMA in Rotterdam, Fuksas Architects in Paris and Fimera Design in Sofia.
About Xaveer Roodbeen
Xaveer Roodbeen is an architectural student at Delft University of Technology currently working on his final thesis concerned with political debate between physical- and virtual space. He also studied at University of Melbourne and held positions at the Rotterdam based offices of both, 7478 and OMA. In addition, he worked as a freelancer and in his own office and currently has several projects under construction.
About Sebastian Schulte
Sebastian Schulte is an architectural student at Delft University of Technology, who previously studied at the University of Stuttgart and the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (Switzerland). Formerly, he worked at the offices of Kohlmayer Oberst Architekten in Stuttgart, Spatial Design Studio in Tokyo and OMA in Hong Kong.