In the recently published essay, Lefebvre explores spaces (on his magic carpet no less) that provide glimpses of, hints towards, an ‘architecture of enjoyment’. Places that he recounts range from the dry Zen gardens of Kyoto, the Alhambra Palace, Erec’s garden from the conclusion of Chrétien de Troyes Eric and Enide, and the Roman baths of Diocletian – they all possess, in different ways, a surplus ‘something else’: an often unfathomable embodiment of enjoyment.
I particularly like his description of the extensive ancient public baths of Diocletian which also encompass many heterotopian sites: garden, park, library, museum, gymnasium, swimming bath and massage rooms.
More widely, Lefebvre’s critique of asceticism in architecture (his definition is broad) refers to the transient enjoyment of such emplacements as public beaches. He finds here something other than package holidays, consumption, concrete leisure complexes: a potential freedom and openness that invites ‘transition, passages, encounters’. This got me thinking of the humble public park. The one I walk through most days is open to all, a public free space, multifunctional, with uncertain borders, uncertain uses, changing from dark to light, open to the ‘elements’, loosely controlled, with areas set aside for play (adventure playground, skateboarding) and quiet contemplation (botanical garden). Used by the elderly, the young, families, groups, couples, joggers, dog walkers, for encounters, games, relaxation, meditation, exercise, renewal …… possessing something beyond or beneath the original, often moral, conceptions of the Victorians.
Lefebvre, H. (2014) Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota.
15 October 2014