History of concept and interpretations

‘Do you remember the telegram that gave us such a laugh, where an architect said he glimpsed a new conception of urbanism? But it wasn’t in the book; it was in a talk on the radio about utopia. They want me to give it again…’ (Foucault)
(Defert, 1997: 274).

Painting by Paul Fromanger
Painting by Paul Fromanger

If you have not read Foucault’s texts on heterotopia, the easiest starting point is to be found at Foucault-InfoThis text, entitled ‘Des Espace Autres’” was published  by the French journal Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité in 1984. It is based on a lecture given by Foucault in 1967.

In my first essay (see below) I trace the history of the concept. I introduce each of Foucault’s three accounts of heterotopia, exploring in particular the lecture he gave to architects which has sparked most attention, criticism, interpretations and applications.

In the second essay, I  look at the reception of Foucault’s idea of heterotopia. I provide a critical summary of the main interpretations and applications of the concept.

Download: Brief History of the Concept of Heterotopia pdf

Download: Interpretations of Heterotopia pdf


A flavour of interpretations:

1) Arab-Islamic architecture (Tonna 1990)

2) An environmental installation (Genocchio 1995)

3) The Museum of Pacific Island Culture (Kahn 1995)

4) The Citadel LA – the civic centre of Los Angeles (Soja 1995)

5) Gardens in Vienna (Rotenberg 1995)

6) The Palais Royal, masonic lodges and early factories (Hetherington 1997)

7) Vancouver’s New Public Library (Lees 1997)

8) A performance prototype (Birringer 1998)

9) Local exchange trading schemes (North 1999)

10) Women’s colleges at the turn of the nineteenth century (Tamboukou 2000)

11) Sites in Fascist Italy (Burdett 2000)

12) Landscapes (Guarrasi 2001)

13) Gated communities in South African security parks (Hook and Vrdoljak 2002)

14) Buddhist Site of Swayambhu in Kathmandu Valley (Owens 2002)

15) Underground band rooms in Hong Kong (Kit-Wai Ma 2002)

16) The Nineteenth century ship narrative (Casarino 2002)

17) British parks in the late nineteenth century (Joyce 2003, p. 223)

18) Pornographic sites on the Internet (Jacobs 2004)

19) The cybercafé (Liff 2003)

20) The museum (Lord 2006)

21) Chinatown in Washington DC (Lou 2007)

22) The vampire (Davies 2008)

23) Norwegian and English prisons (Baer and Ravneberg 2008)

24) Patterns of disclosure among heterosexuals living with HIV (Persson and Richards 2008)

25) The shopping mall (Kern 2008; Muzzio and Muzzio-Rentas 2008)

26) Masculinity practices along the Tel Aviv shoreline (Allweil and Kallus 2008)

27) Burial sites in Kinshasa, Congo (De Boeck 2008)

28) The group dynamics of a climate camp (Saunders and Price 2009)

29) The public nude beach (Andriotis 2010)

30) Off-shore pirate radio station (Soffer 2010)

31) The syringe and the shooting gallery (Vitellone 2010)

32) Derek Jarman’s garden (Steyaert 2010)

33) Hospitals (Coleman and Street 2012)

34) Abney Park Cemetery in London (Gandy 2012)

35) The Persian Garden (Kive 2012)

36) The Lunar Cemetery (Damjanov 2013)

37) Facebook  (Rymarczuk and Derksen 2014)

38) Ultra-Orthodox Spaces in Israel (Shoshana, 2014)

39) Floating Asylum (Morgan, 2014)

40) Numerical modelling ( Laborde, 2015)

41) Twin Peaks (Loacker and Peters, 2015)

42) Folk Festivals (Quinn and Wilks, 2016)

43) Cruise Ships (Rankin and Collins, 2016)

44) Adult Education (Sandberg, Fejas, Dahlstedt and Olson, 2016)

45) Music-Centred Therapy (Honig, 2017)

46) Local Festivals (Quinn and Wilks, 2017)

47) Global Film Production, Chung, 2018)

48) Butlins and Brexit (O’Thomas, 2018)

49) Camps, Encampments, and Occupations (Agier, 2019)

50) The Public Playground (Parnell and Pitsikali, 2019)

Full bibliographic details



revised July 2018


1 Comment

  1. Peter Johnson
    July 20, 2018 @ 10:10 am

    Please let me know of any literture about heterotopia that I may have missed and that can be posted on my blog as well as addded to the bibliographies.



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