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Journal of Landscape Architecture

ISSN: 1862-6033 (Print) 2164-604X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjla20

Barcelona's Fossar de les Moreres: Disinterring the


Heterotopic

Anne Marie Hallal

To cite this article: Anne Marie Hallal (2006) Barcelona's Fossar de les Moreres: Disinterring the
Heterotopic, Journal of Landscape Architecture, 1:2, 6-15, DOI: 10.1080/18626033.2006.9723368

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/18626033.2006.9723368

Published online: 06 Feb 2012.

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Barcelonas Fossar de les Moreres:
Disinterring the Heterotopic
Anne Marie Hallal / History of Architecture and Urbanism, Cornell University
Downloaded by [University of Cambridge] at 04:46 14 September 2017

Abstract Introduction
The architectural discourse has eagerly embraced, frequently misinter In a labyrinthine neighbourhood of narrow cobbled lanes and balconied
preted, and reluctantly abandoned Michel Foucaults concept of hetero buildings, between a gothic cathedral and the Mediterranean, one almost
topia since he formulated it in the late 1960s. As a response, this article re stumbles across a small plaza tucked beside a dense side street. One first
cuperates heterotopia by underscoring its subversive roots, its potential notices a low blood-red granite bench that runs along the edge, creating an
for revealing the built environments political relevance, and its useful inner space removed from the exterior hustle-and-bustle of daily life. Upon
ness in interpreting urban landscapes as unique elements of everyday life. rounding the bench and entering the plaza, a subtle topographicchange
By reformulating the idea in terms of Fossar de les Moreres, a Barcelonan surprises visitors, who gradually descend approximately half a metre to
memorial built in 1988 to commemorate Catalan independence, this essay another plane and, on turning towards the church, realize that what had
serves a dual purpose: clarifying the complex meaning of one specific ur seemed a low bench is actually a dividing wall marking a solemn memo-
ban landscape while emphasizing the contemporary relevance of hetero rial space. A dedication to the Catalans who died unsuccessfully resisting
topia, particularly in relation to landscape architecture. As it is most often Bourbon forces in a 1714 siege of the city is inscribed on the granite: Al fos-
landscapes which the concept, in its formalistic guise, is employed to cat sar de les Moreres no shi enterra cap traidor; fins perdent nostres banderes
egorize, colonize and, effectively, control, the assertion of a more accurate ser lurna de lhonor: Als mrtirs de 1714. (In the cemetery of the Moreres
definition of heterotopic spaces that is based on engagement, autonomy, there has not been buried a single traitor; even if we lose our flags it will be
multivalency and change is essential to promoting a landscape architec the urn of their honor: To the martyrs of 1714.) Behind this wall rises the
ture discourse founded on similar terms. Ultimately, this article is a mod lovely side faade of the fourteenth-century basilica, Santa Mara del Mar,
el for one way to more successfully insert landscape architecture into on a formerly hidden view that emerged as a surprise during early demolition
going theoretical debates addressing space, urbanism and design. for the project (Fig. 1). This oasis of tranquility resists the quotidian occu-
pation and rambunctious appropriation typical of urban open spaces chil-
Narrative / Design Studio / Landscape Architecture / Pedagogy / Interpretation dren do not attempt to balance atop the bench-wall, skateboarders do not
conquer the terrains topographical changes, lovers do not kiss on the se-
cluded benches. While related to the local neighbourhoods improvement
efforts, this subtle and elegant memorial nonetheless remains surprising-
ly aloof from everyday life, enacting the sacredness of the Catalan culture
it commemorates.
This, indeed, is the standard interpretation of the quiet Fossar de les
Moreres, located in Barcelonas newly hip Born neighbourhood [1]. Carme
Fiol and Andreu Arriola designed and installed this petite plazamemori-
al in 1988 and critics consider it an exemplary moment in the city-wide re-
vitalization which Barcelona experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
While undeniably true, this analysis fails to acknowledge the full implica-
tions of the memorial or of Barcelonas renovation. Alternative readings of
both memorial and city become not only possible but, arguably, critically
incumbent. In fact, Barcelonas much-touted urban revitalization is more
accurately described today as gentrification. Middle-class communities,
such as the Born, where residents lived, worked and socialized have been
converted into over-priced leisure zones filled with restaurants and luxu-

6 Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006


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CARME FIOL ANNE MARIE HALLAL

Figure 1 View of descending pavement, inscribed wall, Figure 2 Eternal flame atop a 12-metre-high red steel
and church wall bearing traces of former construction. arc, as seen in 2003.

ry shops catering to tourists and wealthy expatriates. In the controversial of flags, fireworks, and festivities, this national fte is, in actuality, a fairly
re-making of the city, this new population has replaced the Borns middle- recent and calculated invention [2]. Aside from acknowledging the ideo-
and lower-middle-class residents who were pushed out of the urban core, logical manipulation and arbitrariness inherent in this late-nineteenth-
their historic home, to Barcelonas outskirts. The resulting demographic century attempt to rally nationalistic fervour, it is also important to note
shift has created the effect of a theme park plenty of attractions such as the dubious implications for Catalan identity embedded in commemo-
shopping, bars and restaurants, and historically significant sights such rating defeat and repression as fundamental national markers.
as Fossar de les Moreres and, in its commodification, the Born has lost These concerns of ideology and identity may be intangible, but they
much of the diversity and stability inherent to local relationships and the acquire additional solidity when placed alongside the pragmatics of how
rhythms of everyday life. Without resorting to nostalgia for a mythical au- Fossar de les Moreres functions within its urban context. While extolled
thentic past, it is nonetheless important to recognize the changing values for providing open space in a congested city, the plaza is in fact rarely
that not only enable but celebrate a homogenizing and restricted pattern occupied on a quotidian basis. Instead, it exists concurrently as a stylish
of development and their urban ramifications. void, a tourist amenity and an ideological statement that, arguably, sub-
The exodus of Barcelonans and influx of foreigners has also cast a tracts from rather than improves the quality of urban life. Capable of be-
shadow on Fossar de les Moreres purpose. Is it now a didactic statement ing viewed variously from design, patriotic, or urban perspectives, Fos-
educating non-Catalans about Catalan history? Or is it, perhaps, mourn- sar de les Moreres is clearly a multivalent site whose complexity demands
ing another Catalan martyrdom, those former residents who were sac- careful and precise theoretical analysis of its layers of meaning. One pos-
rificed to the cause of Barcelonas late-twentieth-century revitalization? sible strategy to rectify these disparate interpretations is to read the mem
Arguably, the memorial has lost its original meaning altogether and to- orial as a heterotopia. A concept regularly misconstrued and trivialized
day serves merely as the type of generic place-holder and announcement in architectural and urban discourse, heterotopology extends far beyond
of historical significance that is currently considered obligatory in every formalistic categorizations to engage a spaces multiple uses, shifting
global metropolis. Qualifying this last suggestion as hyperbolic and meanings, and socio-political implications. This articles premise is that
maintaining that the memorial still enacts Catalan sacredness, one must applying the idea of heterotopia to Fossar de les Moreres will not only
then confront the implications of the sites overtly nationalistic message. underscore the Barcelona memorials continued relevance, but will also
In a city that has attracted waves of immigrants since its establishment clarify the current viability and potency of Foucaults concept in terms of
from the rest of the peninsula, not to mention Europe, the Middle East, reading multivalent, temporally layered urban landscapes.
and Africa such a nationalistic statement seems overly exclusionary. Re-
sisting entering a debate on Catalan politics, it is nonetheless appropriate The Theory: Mapping the Heterotopic Terrain
to question the validity of the memorials ostensible memory: the execu- French philosopher and intellectual historian Michel Foucault first in-
tion of Catalan resisters on 11 September 1714. While 11 September is cel- troduced the concept of heterotopia in his 1966 text The Order of Things:
ebrated annually as Catalonias national holiday in a spectacular display An Archaeology of the Human Sciences [3]. Foucaults text outlines the dis-

Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006 7


Disinterring the Heterotopic Anne Marie Hallal
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cursive conditions that determine what a society considers acceptable largerconcerns with power and ideology, the consequences of language
and true, thus tracing the development of knowledge systems and how and knowledge, from a theoretical construct increasingly conceived of in
they relate to limitations of language. In his preface, he introduces a limited architectural terms.
Jorge Luis Borges short story, which inspires a passing reference to uto- The unofficial transcript of Foucaults 1967 lecture was eventuallyjoin
pias and heterotopias [4]. Within this context, Foucault presents hetero- ed by an old batch of lecture notes that Foucault had generated whilepre-
topia as a metaphor for a disordered space which contains irreconcilable paring for this presentation and which were subsequently included in a
contradictions and differences that, ultimately, challenge the capacity of Berlin exhibition shortly before the philosophers death in 1984 (Soja 1990:
language to name and of knowledge to grasp. Such spaces are disturb- 6). It is this material which was later published, albeit without Foucaults
ing because their existence destabilizes language and knowledge, thus review or revision, in a 1984 issue of the French journal Architecture-Mouve
threatening the very foundations of social order (Foucault 1994: xviii). Ap- ment-Continuit as Des Espaces Autres. These notes apply heterotopia to
parently, during a radio show shortly after the publication of The Order physical space and make explicit what was barely suggested in The Order
of Things, Foucault mentioned his twin concepts of utopia and heter- of Things, thus enabling a more literal interpretation of the idea. The full
otopia. A listening architect, misunderstanding the context, claimed to consecration of the concept of heterotopia occurred two years later with
have glimpsed a new conception of urbanism and, accordingly, invited the English translation and publication of this essay, entitled Of Other
Foucault to speak about urban space to a group of architects at the Centre Spaces, in both Lotus International and Diacritics. Within the realm of ar-
dtudes Architecturales in Paris [5]. As an outgrowth of this confusion, chitecture, the essay became an instantclassic and heterotopia entered the
Foucault delivered a lecture in 1967 entitled Des Espaces Autres and his mainstream architectural discourse. As gallery owner and critic Henry Ur-
ideas, contained in a bootleg transcript which circulated within the ar- bach observes, It is amazing how operative ... this article became in the
chitectural community for the next decade, resurfaced as a tool for archi- context of Lotus, serving to legitimise the work of a select group of Euro-
tectural theorizing during the late-1970s [6]. The concept, in this formu- pean architects including Aldo Rossi, O. M. Ungers, Vittorio Gregotti and
lation, became a way to talk about the universal and continuous nature others (Urbach 1998:351). Whether or not it was deliberately applied to
of power which either made architecture politically and socially mean- promote a select group of practitioners, Foucaults concept was undeni-
ingless or converted the design of heterotopias into a feasible form of re- ably appropriated in order to validate a particular mode of architectural
sistance and a noble architectural aim (Wright 2005: 437). Regardlessof the criticism, one which favoured an elitist, closed system in which the built
conclusion, Foucaults concept of utopia and heterotopia was treated as environment, discussed in formal terms, struggled for power and autono-
a fixed binary that could be applied, like a model, to architectural think- my against the outside world.
ing and design. In the process, architectural theorists excised Foucaults

8 Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006


Figure 3
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Footprint of former buildings echoed in brick pattern.

Figure 4
Leaning red granite bench at one edge of the memorial.

Figure 5
Brick paving in striking contrast to Barcelonas typi-
cal stone.
ALL PHOTOS BY CARME FIOL

This appropriation relied on conveniently eliding Foucaults broader dis In describing these other places, Foucault outlines six key points in what
cussion of heterotopia as a philosophical commentary on systems of know he calls a heterotopology, a sort of simultaneously mythic and real con-
ledge in The Order of Things, and focusing on the terms literal description testation of the space in which we live (1986: 24). These defining charac
and spatial application in Of Other Spaces. In the later piece, which it teristics include manifestations of heterotopias in every culture albeit
must be remembered is less a formal, resolved essay than a collection of with an unlimited diversity of form, fluctuating uses and locations ac-
notes, Foucault begins with the claim, The present epoch will perhaps cording to changing cultural contexts, coexisting multiple meanings as
be above all the epoch of space (Foucault 1986: 22). This statement pre- well as diverse temporal references, a tendency to be physically set apart
dictably galvanized the design community and ensured a willing audi- yet penetrable, and, finally, meanings derived in relation to physical, cul-
ence. While underscoring the importance of history and time, Foucault tural, and discursive contexts. Foucaults detailed description, incorporat-
nonetheless considers space the dominant system of the twentieth centu- ing examples ranging from boarding schools, psychiatric hospitals, and
ry, particularly in terms of the relations which exist both between spaces cemeteries to theatres, museums, and colonial architecture, suggests sites
and, in fact, structure what we recognize as spaces (1986: 23). Accordingly, outside the norm, yet these other spaces simultaneously frame and rela-
he conceives of contemporary societies as urban grids in which connect- tionally make possible the norm itself. As Foucaults final defining point
ing points and navigating the distances between them becomes the basis implies, not only do heterotopias exist in relation to their context, but
for understanding life. In this schema, normative and subversive spaces reality itself, the so-called context, exists in relation to its heterotopias.
coexist and, in order to better understand how they relate to each other, Analysis of heterotopias thus becomes a way to discuss and understand
Foucault focuses on spaces which upend conventional relations, spaces the more banal and everyday. In order to clarify what at first glance (and
which he describes as either utopias or heterotopias. While utopias are second) appears ambiguous, inconclusive and hopelessly open-ended, this
sites with no real place, ... fundamentally unreal spaces, heterotopias article diligently applies Foucaults definition of heterotopia to Fossar de
actually do exist, yet are located outside of and apart from a civilizations les Moreres. The result is a more sophisticated and complex reading of the
real sites (1986: 24). Hence, heterotopias have a real place, in contrast to site as well as a resurrection of heterotopias critical relevancy. By merg-
utopias, yet are simultaneously removed from tangible reality to the ex- ing heterotopias original context and more literal application, this essay
tent that they contest and invert their own cultural setting. Facilitated by converts a misconstrued theory divorced from its socio-political context
Foucaults own detailed description, locating, categorizing, and defining into a potent concept capable of disrupting, contesting, and deepening
heterotopic spaces a sterile project of limited impact unfortunately be- accepted interpretations of the built environment.
came the main objective of this theoretical construct.

Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006 9


Disinterring the Heterotopic Anne Marie Hallal

Figure 6 Sharp contrast between memorial and de


teriorating buildings when originally installed.

Figure 7 Adjacent buildings restored and repainted


by 2003, changing relationship of memorial to its
surroundings.

Mutual Enlightenment: Fossar de les Moreres as a Heterotopia represents radical Catalan patriotism to some while serving as a banal
As his point of departure for transforming his spatial metaphor into an historical marker and photo-opportunity to others, a multivalence which
explicit place, Foucault contends that heterotopias exist in every culture Fiol and Arriolas minimalist design facilitates. Even with the inscription
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and every community yet in an absolutely non-universal form unique to dedicating the memorial to the Catalan martyrs of 1714, occupants and
each society. He reasons that this multiplicity of forms for places which passersby selectively edit and reconstruct their own readings of the site.
are both real and outside the real falls into essentially two types of spaces: This ambiguity was challenged when a 12-metre-high red arc topped by
heterotopias of crisis and of deviation. The first refers to privileged or sa- an eternal flame was inserted at the centre of the memorials wall (Fig. 2).
cred or forbidden places intended for temporary use during socially de- Apparently, the very subtlety of Fiol and Arriolas design was problema
termined moments of crisis such as boarding schools or honeymoon trips tic for some who insisted on a more overt statement of the sites memo
(Foucault 1986: 24). The second form, heterotopias of deviation, refers to rializing function. The fact that the sculptural piece eerily resembles a
more permanent places for individuals outside of societys norms, for in- stylized gallows, in addition to disrupting the balance and elegance of the
stance psychiatric hospitals or prisons (1986: 25). Beyond these two gener- 1988 design, was not enough to prevent its installation. The addition of
al classifications of crisis and deviation however, Foucault argues further the red arc and eternal flame indicate a very real institutional urge to de-
that heterotopias change their use and place according to a dynamic cul- termine and control spatial meaning, while the subsequent protests and
tural context. A society, as its history unfolds, he states, can make an ex- ridicule within the community suggest a more widespread desire for the
isting heterotopia function in a very different fashion (1986: 25). In other flexibility implicit in ambiguous spaces.
words, a heterotopia of crisis or deviation today may be a communitys con Containing a multiplicity of meaning, heterotopias also reflect a diver
ventional, non-other space tomorrow, or vice versa. For instance, if Fossar sity of times. What Foucault describes as slices of time, heterotopias sug-
de les Moreres were ever to be occupied by a group protesting the loss gest both an accumulation of time in a palimpsest of historical moments
oftheir homes due to the Borns gentrification or demonstrating for in- and a reflection of time in its most fleeting, transitory, precarious aspect
creased Catalan autonomy, it would become a heterotopia of crisis and, (Foucault 1986: 26). In terms of Fossar de les Moreres, a heterotopic reading
thus, acquire a location and meaning outside its urban context and be- permits acknowledgement of the site as a process of growth rather than
yond its overt memorial program. as a finished product, particularly in its layering of multiple time periods.
However, this fluctuating identity that Foucault proposes is compli- The memorial overtly commemorates the Catalan resistance and its ulti-
cated in the case of Fossar de les Moreres by a certain contradiction be- mate defeat, in a two-month siege in 1714 during the War of the Spanish
tween heterotopias and memorials in terms of change. While heteroto- Succession and, implicitly, the Bourbon victors subsequent repression of
pias are inherently dynamic sites which shift meaning, memorials, in Catalan culture and language throughout the eighteenth century. In ad-
contrast, ostensibly freeze time and place in order to canonize a certain dition, the plazas topographical depression marks not only the level of
moment in and conception of history. This paradox, by which commem- the mass grave that used to exist on the site, but also references the year
orative architecture is labelled historic and, in the process, removed from of 1821 when the Spanish government in Madrid replaced the cemetery
all future histories, results in environments which are no longer living with a paved plaza. Another epoch in the sites dense temporal imbrica-
(Arnold 2004: 262). In fact, memorials, as a genre, tend to reject spontane tion is the first decade of the twentieth century when Catalan intellectu-
ous appropriations and manifestations, particularly those which might als canonized 11 September 1714 as the sacred date in Catalan history. The
contradict the official vision inscribed in a monument. From this criti- national holiday they invented, an outgrowth of the nineteenth-centu-
cal perspective, Fossar de les Moreres memorializing function implicitly ry Catalan Renaissance celebrating Catalonias literature, artists and his-
challenges its fluidity and flexibility as an urban heterotopia. tory, was not physically manifested until the memorials 1988 construc-
In addition to a variety of forms and a variable identity, Foucault con tion, nearly a decade after Francos death and Catalonias achievement of
firms that a heterotopia is multivalent and capable of juxtaposing in a semi-autonomy, resulting in another time period layered into the me-
single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incom morial. Furthermore, the sites triangulated surface pattern retains the
patible, [with] superimposed meanings (Foucault 1986: 25). Such a space, trace of the twentieth-century buildings that were demolished to create
presumably, could exist as an alternative, subversive space while simul- the plaza, offering another spatial memory that is echoed in the scarred
taneously manifesting normative relations. Thus, Fossar de les Moreres surface of the Santa Mara del Mar (Fig. 3, also see Fig. 1). The faade, with

10 Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006


CARME FIOL
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anne mar i e hallal

its graphic evidence of another time and form in this one place, illustrates
the historic memory contained within Fossar de les Moreres. Finally, the
red arc with its eternal flame overlays another temporal reference, this ric. While both were chosen for their connotations of the blood spilt on
time to the late 1990s, onto the imbricated site. this site centuries earlier, the granite was also an insiders joke referenc-
Within this web, or perhaps more appropriately, maze of meaning ing Lenins Tomb in Moscow (Arriola 1993: 125) and Catalonias fraught re-
and time, heterotopias also exhibit an ambiguous sense of restricted ac- lationship with socialism, another example of multiple meanings within
cess that both isolates them and makes them penetrable (Foucault 1986: one place. Finally, if the sites physical design were not enough, the walls
26). Such sites are set apart, physically and symbolically, from normal engraving honouring Catalonias martyrs explicitly distinguishes the me-
space, underscoring their otherness. The low wall between the Fossar de morials solemnity, sacredness and, like the gravestone its tilted wall con-
les Moreres plaza and the street, open on both ends, forms just such an notes, deadness from the lived spaces surrounding it, further highlight-
easily transgressed barrier. It serves, in fact, to simultaneously remove the ing the difference between inside and outside the plaza.
plaza from its surrounding areas while maintaining its accessibility. Fur- As his last defining point, Foucault asserts that heterotopias only have
thermore, the walls functional potential as a bench is complicated by the significance in relation to all the other spaces that remain. They serve ei-
tilted angle at which it is set, leaning towards the street and Santa Mara ther as spaces of illusion, that expose every real space, all the sites inside
del Mar and thereby playing with the plazas sense of depth (Fig. 4). Per- of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory, or as spaces of
haps stemming from a desire to make the inscription more legible (it is compensation, which create a space that is other, another real space, as
placed on the side which tilts up), the angle nonetheless discourages sit- perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed,
ting and subtly marks the divider and the space beyond as something and jumbled (Foucault 1986: 27). In the first case, reality appears more
Other, if not actually denoting a leaning gravestone of the type found in idealin comparison, while in the second, it is heterotopias that are ideal
an old cemetery. Like the low wall, the topographical depression at the ized, offering an escape from reality. In terms of Fossar de les Moreres,
centre of the memorial also creates a sense of porosity and division. While its material characteristics, all potent markers, ultimately rely on their
symbolically representing the level of the corpses in the eighteenth-cen- relationship to the sites physical as well as social and historical context
tury graveyard, the topographical change physically sets the plaza apart for their meaning. As Foucault emphasizes, Fossar de les Moreres only ex-
from the street and subtly inhibits occupation of the heart of the site. ists as Other and different in relation to its surroundings. Its brick and
Many would-be visitors, in an apparent effort to avoid the grade change, granite would not be conspicuous and effective as heterotopic markers
circumnavigate the centre rather than crossing the plaza in the most di- if the surrounding neighbourhood were not constructed predominate-
rect route. Ostensibly open, the memorials centre nonetheless feels closed ly of stone. Furthermore, it is the dense urban fabric of the Born rising
off. This may also stem from the designers use of a blatantly different on all sides of the site which makes the memorials openness all the more
material brick for the plazas ground plane. Contrasting dramatically remarkable. Whether serving, as Foucault might have argued, to under-
with the stone that predominates in Barcelonas historic neighbourhoods, score the illusory nature of contemporary life or to compensate for a dis-
the brick and its triangular pattern further distinguish the site from its appointing reality (1986: 27), Fossar de les Moreres, like all heterotopias,
surroundings and discourage everyday appropriation (Fig. 5). Finally, the acquires meaning not in isolation but, rather, only in relation to its ur-
red granite of the wall, like the brick, is strikingly unique in the city fab- ban and social context.

Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006 11


Disinterring the Heterotopic Anne Marie Hallal

This relationship, however, becomes increasingly complex the more close- ation of the concept. In the course of translating heterotopia into archi-
ly it is examined. When the memorial was originally installed in 1988, it tectural theory, contends Urbach, key elements of Foucaults concept
contrasted sharply with its deteriorated surroundings, offering a beauti- have been left off, particularly its more contingent and political aspects
ful, well-maintained space that shone all the more brightly in compar- (Urbach 1998: 347). Indeed, the contradictions and complexity inherent to
ison (Fig. 6). Within Foucaults framework of illusory or compensatory a heterotopias temporal palimpsest, dynamic meaning, porous separa-
spaces, Fossar de les Moreres would arguably have qualified as a space of tions, and mutual dependence with spatial and cultural contexts inevit
compensation, making the grimness of its surroundings seem more bear- ably call into question a societys status quo, destabilizing spatial, social,
able and less significant, even if more noticeable. However, by 2003, the and political order. This subversive effect has, unfortunately, been muted
buildings fronting the plaza had been restored and repainted while the by a tendency within the architectural community to deny this aspect of
plaza was beginning to show signs of age (Fig. 7). Evolving into a space of heterotopia and reduce the concept to a question of physical stylistics or
illusion, which reveals the artifice of its physical surroundings, Fossar de concrete definitions. In fact, the architectural status quo and institution-
les Moreres thus underlines the neighbourhoods gentrification and dis- al system is one of the very social orders which heterotopia, at its full crit-
cursive construction. There is, however, another possible reading outside ical potential, would likely destabilize and threaten. Today, however, the
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Foucaults framework. Like Jean Baudrillards analysis of Disneyland [7], principle of heterotopia is No longer a challenge to discursive coherence,
the plazas artificiality makes the rest of Barcelona, described by many as [but] remarkably, a way to protect standards of architectural propriety
a theme park after its dramatic revitalization [8], appear more authentic. (Urbach 1998: 351).
The memorial, in this analysis, seems to hybridize spaces of illusion and Heterotopias destabilizing potential, its very cultural claws, has been
spaces of compensation to create yet another heterotopic subset. lost in a process of taming and appropriation. From an invitation to ac-
Taken as a whole, Foucaults definition of heterotopia is so malleable knowledge the disorder always implicit in societys ostensible norms, het-
that the issue is less whether a certain site can be categorized as a hetero- erotopia has been converted into little more than a theoretical deus ex
topia, because surely at some point or for some user every place has occu- machina or a handy marker for a variety of centreless structures or an
pied an alternative, liminal space, but rather whether there is any space elastic postmodern plurality (Genocchio 1995: 36, 42). Heterotopia, thus,
that is not heterotopic. As art critic Benjamin Genocchio posits in his in- has been used to sustain architectural criticism without threatening ac-
sightful critique of the concept within architectural discourse, the ques- cepted ways of reading space in terms of distinct limits, static meanings
tion then becomes: what cannot be designated a heterotopia? (Genocchio and unambiguous chronologies. In other words, the term justifies and
1995: 39). This attitude, unfortunately promoted by early formalistic and limits existing architectural discourse rather than expanding the realm
narrow applications of the term, often leads critics to futile attempts to of possibilities in terms of discussing space as a dynamic, discursive con-
categorize the ways in which certain sites qualify as heterotopias. Upon struct with radical historical, social, and political implications for the dis-
confronting the incongruencies unavoidably engendered in any literal cipline as well as the sites themselves. The resulting bankruptcy of the
application of Foucaults concept, they either wholly disqualify Fossar de concept and its subsequent irrelevancy contributed to its decreased popu-
les Moreres, or whatever place they might be analysing, as a heterotopic larity and general absence from the current architectural discourse. In or-
space or, more commonly, proffer a partial reading of the site which cam- der to salvage the validity of heterotopia in relation to the built environ
ouflages the problematic contradictions. Neither of these reactions is par- ment, then criticism must begin to treat Foucaults theory as an an idea,
ticularly productive. Instead, this article suggests moving beyond Genoc- or perhaps a practice, that challenges the functional ordering of space
chios query to another, more relevant, question: how can the concept of while refusing to become part of that order (Hetherington 1997: 47). Rath-
heterotopia contribute to our critical understanding of space? er than concretizing a definition of the concepts possibilities and, thus,
impossibilities, Foucaults six points become instead a jumping-off point
The Architectural Discourse: Reconfiguring Heterotopia from which to chart non-conformist spatial as well as critical practices and
As a first step to recognizing the full potential of heterotopia as a concept, their slippery, ever-changing past, present and future manifestations.
it is necessary to expand it beyond a formalistic conversation internal to The tension implicit in understanding-without-fixing reflects a larger
architecture and fully insert it in the larger socio-political discourse. Us- ambiguity underlying much of Foucaults work: the coexisting impulses
ing heterotopia as a tool for categorizing places is, in fact, not only fu- towards control and resistance that he identifies as the twin forcespresent
tile but antithetical to Foucaults vision of a site that somehow subverts in all social order and, by implication, disorder. Never just one or the oth-
the spatial order. Indeed, as the geographer Edward W. Soja argues, Con- er, both forces are always present, promoting continued ambivalence and
ventional formal descriptions of [heterotopias], as empirical geometries contradiction instead of tidy conclusions. As the sociologist Kevin Heth-
or as sites for the storage, circulation, marking, classification and encod- erington notes, The power of the concept of heterotopia lies in its ambi-
ing of areally differentiated human elements ... tend to miss their mean- guity, that it can be a site of order just as much as it can be a site of resist-
ing, to hide the revealing tensions and contradictions that exist between ance (Hetherington 1997: 51). This recognition of heterotopiasas sites that
them and all other real sites (Soja 1990: 8). Reading space in terms of So- express resistance as well as order can be nuanced further, however,to un-
jas relational tensions and contradictions is arguably the most salient derscore their function as embodiments of social practice rather than as
aspect of heterotopology, but also, unfortunately, the aspect that has been geographic entities. In other words, such sites not only exist within and in
most neglected, particularly in the architectural communitys appropri- relation to a larger physical and social context, but are, in fact, defined by

12 Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006


their manifestations of constantly changing social relationships. Hetero- argue that every memorial is eventually both officially imposed and so-
topia are spaces in which an alternative social ordering is performed, em- cially constructed, with individual memories and quotidian life adapt-
phasizes Hetherington. These are spaces in which a new way of ordering ing to and influencing governmental programmes, Arnolds analysis is
emerges that stands in contrast to the taken-for-granted mundane idea of a refreshing recognition of heterotopias political potential and a useful
social order that exists within society (Hetherington 1997: 40). Such an un- model for analyzing Fossar de les Moreres. From this perspective, the Bar-
derstanding moves heterotopia firmly beyond the formal into the realm celona memorial is notable not for its innovative design, restrained ele-
of socio-cultural analysis. Art and architecture theorist John Rajchman ar- gance and effective use of materials, but rather for the ways in which it
gues that Foucault did not object to formalism for its reliance on forms, contains, expresses and helps to form an array of inherently political be-
but instead for its related removal of form from social specifics (Rajchman liefs and attitudes concerning Catalan independence, Barcelonas histori-
1983: 55). Indeed, Foucault advocated linking form to subject in order to cal and social status, and the Spanish states legitimacy. This interpreta-
ask how various sites constitute a political reality (Rajchman 1983: 57). tion depends on embracing instead of simplifying multiple time periods,
The discontinuous montage of obsessive assemblage which we identi- fluctuating meanings, and shifting context, all hallmarks of Foucaults
fy as heterotopia (Genocchio 1995: 41) a collection of disparate temporal, concept of heterotopia.
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functional, and physical elements is never merely a stylistic coda punc- Another consequence of expanding Fossar de les Moreres heterotopic
tuating a city but, instead, embodies a reciprocal relationship with its ur- interpretations beyond the formalistic is a renewed appreciation for the
ban, human, and rhetorical surroundings. It is through this relationship sites urban ramifications. Similarly to the political implications of the
that order and disorder are continuously expressed, co-opted and remem- plazas role as a memorial, Fossar de les Moreres has played a significant
bered, thus endorsing a more relevant formulation of Foucaults spatial part in the controversy of the Borns urban development. The site can be
concept. seen as embodying a policy of physical renewal that dominated Barcelo-
nas urban design from the early 1980s. Indeed, through the emotional
Conclusions and historical message it evokes, the memorial was an active participant
Fossar de les Moreres, Landscape Architecture and Heterotopia in the Borns gentrification, arguably helping to legitimize development
If heterotopology is allowed to extend beyond being a mere tool for for- that might otherwise have proved too controversial. Yet in the nearly
malistic analysis, its socio-spatial ramifications are unlimited. According- two decades since its installation, Fossar de les Moreres has evolved to in-
ly, it becomes impossible to perceive Fossar de les Moreres as an isolated corporate a range of meanings, including more positive representations
site since it effectively becomes part of a much larger physical, discursive of open space, well-cared-for streets, and collective memories. Through
and historical system and, as such, both reflects and helps to construct so- an accumulation of daily events, individual experience, and shared his-
cial realities. From this more expansive perspective, Fossar de les Moreres tory, Fossar de les Moreres has been incorporated into a densely imbri-
role as a memorial can be interrogated not only in terms of its designs cated urban web in which it is no longer just a memorial, just an open
symbolism, but of its active participation in the ongoing construction of plaza, or just a forerunner of urban development, but rather something
Barcelonan and Catalan history. In this process, the plaza becomes inher- that resists precise definition. In fact, reading and appreciating the site
ently politicized, as the contested terrain of collective memory merges in its full complexity requires recognition of the continuing evolution of
with that of Catalan identity and the controversy surrounding autonomy. meaning, linked to the passage of time, which is especially ambiguous in
Instead of a mutually exclusive equation in which heterotopic fluidity urban conditions. It is this complex juxtaposition and cosmopolitan si-
clashes with memorializing fixity, as suggested above, a heterotopic me- multaneity of differences in space, argues Soja, that charges the hetero-
morial is not only possible but probable. Through their implicit embrace topia with social and cultural meaning and connectivity. Without such a
of temporal, physical, and interpretive ambiguities, heterotopic memori- charge, the space would remain fixed, dead, immobile, undialectical (Soja
als reveal the very process of memory construction and, as such, embody 1990: 9). Thus, the only way to perpetuate the continued vibrancy of urban
Pierre Noras lieux de mmoire, places which effectively merge memory and spaces is to celebrate and promote spatial complexity without imposing
history to promote a sites continued dynamic identity rather than freez- meaning and, hence, immobilizing potential. In this sense, it is crucial to
ing it in time. As architectural historian Dana Arnold asserts, Although critically revisit contemporary design in the years and decades after their
lieux de mmoire symbolize a will to remember and record, their meaning installation in order to trace the accumulation of meaning and connec-
is not fixed and may change over time... Nora himself relies on the pas- tivity. This reappraisal of sites and their contexts allows a criticism of the
sage of time to explore fully the slippage between memory and history. built environment based less on physicality and more on the relational
This can be used to examine the appropriation of forms and spaces for aspects of a design which promote, permit or prohibit certain meanings,
political end (Arnold 2004: 263264). By resisting the sacredness so often modes of appropriation and, ultimately, repercussions.
attributed to memorials and instead connecting the dynamic exchange Fossar de les Moreres implications for urban development and memo-
between institutional history and individual memory to the capacity for ry construction are just two examples of how the contextualizing implicit
political control, Arnold offers a critical bridge to understanding hetero- to a heterotopic perspective enables a socially relevant, politicized inter-
topias subversive potential. Her analysis develops, in fact, into a discus- pretation of space. As with much of Foucaults philosophy, the concept is
sion of memorials as either state-imposed symbols or the result of human meant to challenge instead of reinforce the prevailing discourse through
interaction, contextual exchange, and the passage of time. While I would its focus on multiplicity, its tolerance of ambiguity, and its awareness of

Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006 13


Disinterring the Heterotopic Anne Marie Hallal

constant change. Urbach underlines heterotopias potential for resistance commodation and adaptation, and the surrounding context. Heterotopia,
and subversion when he summarizes what he considers the concepts sa- in fact, offers the ideal theoretical language to discuss the social, physical,
lient aspects: and political environments which are inherent to critically understand-
It represents the apparent normality of other spaces as fictitious and ing the built environment.
restrictive. It maintains heterotopic effect by concretising ways of think- This essay asserts that not only will the concept of heterotopia enable
ing and practising space that loosen the hold of dominant codes, chal- a richer, more sophisticated appreciation of landscape architecture as
lenging structures of regulation and control that obtain elsewhere. How- an autonomous discipline, but that landscape architecture provides the
ever momentarily, it dissolves, destabilises and interrupts power. (Urbach quintessential subject matter for Foucaults theory. Genocchios celebra-
1998: 351-352) tion of heterotopias as an unpredictable nexus of imagination, ideology
While concretising is an unfortunate word choice in this context, in and power (Genocchio 1995: 43) can, in fact, apply equally well to any land-
that it implies a fixing of meaning antithetical to heterotopias effective scape. Furthermore, this idea of unpredictability suggests a final quality
application, Urbach nonetheless touches on how a new spatial discourse which landscapes and heterotopias share: they both provoke active en-
can participate in re-ordering systems of control. When repeatedly creat- gagement on the part of users, designers, and critics. This idea that inter-
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ed and perceived anew in a perpetual open-ended assertion of order and action constructs theoretical concept as well as lived environment affirms
disorder, heterotopias indeed offer a way to challenge power and author-
ity through constant reinterpretations of the designed, discursive and so-
cial landscape. Moreover, since heterotopias display the incoherencies,
fissures and contradictions that inhere in social arrangements and expose
their shaky legitimacy (Urbach 1998: 348), they become crucial communi- Endnotes
cators of cultural conditions in the case of the Barcelona memorial, gen- 1. Two examples of Fossar de les Moreres typical analysis are:
trification, historical editing or politicized machinations which it would Andreu Arriola, Building the City Out of Empty Spaces, Topos 5
be negligent to ignore. Clearly, sites such as Fossar de les Moreres can no (Dec. 1993), 122133; Anita Berrizbeitia and Linda Pollak,
Inside/Outside: Between Architecture and Landscape
longer be analysed solely as the idealized fictions which their designers
(Gloucester, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers, 1999).
and patrons present, but instead must be discussed in terms of their rela-
2. According to Joan-Llus Marfany, this invented tradition of
tion to social and urban realities. Heterotopias expanded definition and,
celebrating Catalonias national day on 11 September was es-
hence, relevance, compel critics to confront, and interfere with, the im- tablished in 1895 with a ceremony memorializing the martyrs
aginary coherence of spatial practices in the present, concludes Urbach. of 1714. Marfany, La Cultura del Catalanisme (Barcelona: Edito-
We might, in this case, be delighted to discover that we confront a socio- rial Empries, 1995), 193.
spatial terrain already full of fissures, overripe with heterotopicpotential 3. The text was originally published in French as Les Mots et les
ready to implode (1998: 352). It is this rejection of standard readings and Choses: Une Archologie des Sciences Humaines and was translated
into English in 1970 as The Order of Things.
embrace of a fractured landscape which leads to more socio-political ana
lyses such as those concerning Fossar de les Moreres role in constructing 4. The Borges short story is The Analytical Language of John
Wilkins and involves an absurd, arbitrary system of animal
Barcelonas larger lived and imagined landscape. classification which is nonetheless carefully alphabetized.
In terms of the discursive landscape, this essay has already examined
5. The radio lecture, entitled Literature and Utopia, was given 7
heterotopias problematic interpretation and eventual dismissal within December 1966 and referred to different spaces which contest
the architectural community. More promisingly, several architectural the space we live in and, further, not a science of utopias but
historians, notably Gwendolyn Wright (2005) and Sarah Chaplin (2000), of heterotopias, a science of absolutely other spaces. Foucault
have recently addressed the details of this process and suggested ways to ridicules the architectural misunderstanding in a Spring 1967
communication in which he reminds a friend of the telegram
critically reincorporate the concept into architectural analysis by wel- that gave us such a laugh, where an architect said he glimpsed
coming Foucaults ambiguities as productive and unique. What has not a new conception of urbanism. Roland Ritter and Bernd Knal-
been discussed is heterotopias apparent absence from the landscape ar- ler-Vlay, Heterotopia, in Other Spaces. The Affair of the Heteroto-
chitecture discourse [9]. While architectural theorists regularly used the pia (Austria: Haus der Architektur, Redaktion, 1998), 14.
concept to analyse urban landscapes of various scales, landscape archi- 6. An early adaptation of heterotopia to architectural theory
tects have failed to claim heterotopia as their own, even within an active is found in Massimo Cacciari, Franco Rella, Manfredo Tafuri,
Georges Teyssot, eds., Il Dispositivo Foucault (Venedig, 1977).
campaign of framing (and, thus, controlling) their own discourse. This Another formative text was George Teyssots Heterotopias
is particularly puzzling since, as a discipline intrinsically linked to other and the History of Space published in Architecture and Urbanism
systems, from the hydraulic to the regional, landscape architecture is es- in 1980. See Wright 2005: 437 and 439.
pecially well suited to the multi-layered complexity of heterotopology. 7. Jean Baudrillard declares that, Disneyland exists in order
Rather than the more clearly bounded analyses appropriate for architec- to hide that it is the real country, all of real American that
ture, landscape has always required a critical shift in order to encompass is Disneyland... Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order
to make us believe that the rest is real. Baudrillard, The Pre-
and appreciate the conceptual multiplicity of an urban landscape that is
founded on temporal evolution, spatial porosity, multiple meanings, ac-

14 Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006


that both are sites of dynamic exchange and appropriation. In short, het- as landscape, is thus the only way to maintain the continued vitality and
erotopia is not an answer, but rather an invitation to another question, critical relevance essential to effectively building, studying, and occupy-
part of a social space that is inherently polysemous and contestory, made ing our built environment.
from a woven thread of some still enchanted fabric which must always be
questioned, fought over, altered and most of all, unravelled (Genocchio Acknowledgements
1995: 43). Similarly, landscapes are never pristine, finished designs, as they I would like to thank Professor Jeremy Foster for his generous encourage
are so often presented photographically, but rather are porous, evolving ment and support in submitting this article for publication.
spaces that exist only so long as they are actively appropriated and con-
textually connected. As opposed to a prescription or recipe for analysis,
Foucaults descriptions suggest that we scrutinize and question the im-
plications and possibilities of the slips, exceptions, oddities lurking at the
very limits of the system that defines for us what is thinkable, sayable,
knowable (Genocchio 1995 : 43). Disobeying the rules, straying off the
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path, and occupying the liminal spaces, of theoretical construct as well

Biographical Notes
cession of Simulacra, in Simulacra and Simulation, Sheila Fe- Foucault, M. 1986. Of Other Spaces. Ms Hallal earned a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from
ria Glaser, trans. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, Translated by Jay Miskowiec. Diacritics 16 (1): 22-27. Cornell University and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in the
1994), 12. History of Architecture and Urbanism, also at Cornell. She spent nine
. 1994. The Order of Things. New York, Vintage Books.
months in Barcelona researching and writing her Masters thesis on
8. For an insightful discussion of Barcelona as theme park, see
Genocchio, B. 1995. Discourse, Discontinuity, Difference: the Catalan capitals discursive construction as a tourist attraction
Donald McNeill, Urban Change and the European Left (Lon-
The Question of OtherSpaces. In: Watson S. & Gibson K. (eds.) and is presently focusing her dissertation research on the intersection
don and New York: Routledge, 1999), particularly pages 44-54.
Postmodern Cities and Spaces, Oxford, UK and Cambridge, of leisure, memory and the production of place in Francoist Spain. Ms.
9. Simon Swaffields 2002 Theory in Landscape Architecture: A Blackwell Publishers: 35 -46. Hallals work focuses on architecture and landscape as politicized con-
Reader includes no references to heterotopias. Elizabeth Mey- structions, interesting for their function in everyday life rather than for
Hetherington, K. 1997. The Badlands of Modernity.
er, in the excerpt from her 1992 essay Situating Modern Land- their aesthetic value.
London and New York, Routledge.
scape Architecture, recognizes the extent to which built land-
scapes are implicated in Foucaults power structures (Swaffield McNeill, D. 1999. Urban Change and the European Left:
2002: 31) and Peter Jacobs, in the excerpt from his 1991 essay Tales from the New Barcelona. London and New York, Routledge. Contact
De/Re/In[form]ing Landscape, hints at a new definition of
Marfany, J. L. 1995. La Cultura del Catalanisme. University address:
landscape implicit in Foucaults analysis of the relationship
Barcelona, Editorial Empries. 143 East Sibley Hall
between nature and culture (Swaffield 2002: 120). Unfortunate-
Ithaca, New York 14 853
ly, neither author fully attempts to adapt Foucaults spatial Rajchman, J. 1983. Foucault, or the Ends of Modernism.
theories to landscape architecture, perhaps due to incomplete October 24: 37-62. Home address:
or flawed definitions of heterotopia. 511 North Tioga St. #4
Ritter, R. & Knaller-Vlay, B. 1998. Heterotopia.
Ithaca, New York 14 850
In: Ritter, R. & Knaller-Vlay, B. (eds.). Other Spaces. The Affair of
the Heterotopia. Austria, Haus der Architektur, Redaktion: 8 -19. Telephone:
References
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Journal of Landscape Architecture / autumn 2006 15