Heterotopic Urbanism: Liminal Thoroughfares & Enclaves

The socio-cultural fabric of neighborhoods often revolve around a central commercial artery where the ebbs and flows of public life weave a mixture of people, storefronts, markets, and private and public life together. Various boundaries of rhythmic time scales, formal and informal rules (cultural, spatial, and institutional) keep people bounded to expected norms but can also operate in expected and irrational ways.

While Valencia is evident of economic processes that value norms of development, expansion, and progress (it’s infrastructure spilling onto Mission St.), Mission St. has somewhat resisted the forces of conventional progress given it’s nebulous, unregulated commerce connected to local and global networks. At the same time, similar program types (churches, markets, stores, restaurants) are found on both streets though compete for street space differently dependent on  “infrastructural” flows and constituencies.

The monolithic culture that is evident on Valencia operates under local management, yet its social and cultural image is arguably striated and globalized. Progress is defined by replacing irrelevant shops with completely new programs of leisure and entertainment and subject to volatile market forces–a destination spot. On the other hand, Mission St. is locally smooth in nature yet many of its commercial stores are rooted in the global market–a strip that reflects more mundane programs such as grocery stores and financial institutions.

Can architecture opportunistically break norms/habits/routines by challenging the boundary of the storefront facade, the static street, existing spatial thresholds and programmatic typologies that would be more in line with a new model of expansion and cultural mixing? Broadly speaking, is there an architecture that addresses the slowness of space and the fastness of culture? Can architecture produce novel forms of experience at the same rate of cultural desire? How can it embrace obsolescence in another way?

Architecture is capable of creating an entirely new norm of progress (one that embraces volatility and uncertainty) that is defined by recycling existing conditions and norms–defragmenting, reconnecting, and redensifying existing typologies and spatial conditions. This architecture results in a mutated form capable of resisting the forces of displacement and market volatility that would produce an entirely new culture of habits and routines. It would be malleable at the local level, deforming and densifying from within. This new model of expansion remains in a poised state of volatility  that is not subject to conventional market forces–potentially creating new and consumable forms of novelty and exchange.

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One thought on “Heterotopic Urbanism: Liminal Thoroughfares & Enclaves

  1. Economic forces and individuals’ fickle needs and desires produce a volatile environment leading to obsolete architecture (for example, as a result of gentrification) yet people’s quotidian patterns remain consistent. By using micro-volatile tactics, architecture can produce more malleable, timeless spaces capable of producing novel forms of habitation to buffer negative volatile forces by replacing conventional desires.

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