Heterotopias bring together people who are in crisis with their environment and deal with some everyday problems, having realized the contradiction among what they would like to have and what they have in actuality. Heterotopic places try to preserve the independence of thought and action, whether this works through conditions, practices or social claims. Of course I am not referring to the personal trace of each individual, but the common features of social networks to which they belong and the specific systems that interact with the space. These people construct places where they apply their own beliefs, a kind of microcosms and urban structures in the city, snapshots of another condition included in the urban space and time. Yet, where the ephemeral urban structures began to grow and reproduce their own sites and links, always within an increasingly technologically developing world, they created their own identities. Identities that repel the city itself and make individual defence mechanisms. Therefore, the existing order is reversed and a new system of social organization is hatched. The other places reflect the everyday, the granted but also the proposal of a turnover life. The format of the premises, their symbolism, the flows inside them and the general operation of them inside the city, express the values of the dominant culture and life, opposing, rejecting or reversing them. These substantial places, besiege the city itself and formulate heterotopias. The recommended way of living, includes the practical expression of the strong forms of collective creation and configuration of everyday life as a process of resolving social contradictions. The entrenched - in a sense - spaces, become haven, within which are applied alternative forms of social organization, grown alternative perspectives, formed human relationships and behaviours, not only liberated but also free.
Groups of people generate heterotopias by trying to construct therein or through them a situation ideal. The path is not settled or completely specified. Their practice is the effort to create the conditions that allow the passage to this ideal. It is a process mainly spatial but also mental, a procedure through the uncertain, pulling the strings of their action. The uncertain is close to both the space of the imagination, (faith in change, in a better condition) and space of reality (looking for the most essential needs). At the same time, the standard elements are remote from the dream (stationary and absolute, and mostly unrealistic), but also from reality (rather than the reality itself, they enjoy a caricature crafted and permanently reproduced by themselves).
Heterotopias, as we know, have no clear and immutable geographic boundaries with a fixed physical substance. They are places designated by acts or situations, from experiences or facts. Their outline may vary, since the action and the various new needs move, transmit and transfer from one person to another and from one place to another. The instability that characterizes them, diversify them from any other place and gives them special interest. The identity is hard to define as it is constantly in a state of flux, which transforms continuously and gets adapted to the nature and circumstances of the environment. The space is homogeneous and yet separated, shattered and yet preserved. The complexity of the environment gives the impression of disorder and arbitrariness, but contains internal (collective) self-organizing rules. I am not referring to the total area of urban or regional planning or the segmented place of architecture. I’m talking about the need that consolidates the functional pieces of a space separated, thereby realizing the homogeneous and shredded character. And this character develops and transforms the social practices within a capitalist (progressing) society showing at the same time its boundaries.
The deceptive existence of boundaries, even if they appear to be resilient and temporarily transposable, suggests what might be happening inside heterotopic places. There is thus a particular, special charge, which profess the criteria and actions of groups of people - users who operate in these other places. These groups of people are certainly not homogenous masses: the diversity of individuals is expressed within the complexity and variety of space. This space becomes a communication code, where each element, combined with the location and function, refers to specific meanings. Inside heterotopias, the space generated is independent from the urban mainstream, socially, politically and spatially. These other spaces are immediately distinguishable from the built environment of the city. Therefore, the form of heterotopic spaces, even though freer in its internal organization and a very different aesthetic culture, is entrenched quirky but scrupulously by the urban and social environment. Each element acts as a mirror of the state hosting. The passages function like islands in a different social reality like giant parentheses in space and time. The potential lies in the power of each individual initiative, but also from the overall presence. Consequently, surfaces and micro - environments form a network, create a standalone place, a “reaction” to the urban fabric that has physical dimensions, changes in its structure, its colour, its shape and materials of the space, but also changes of the time (change of pace, change of perception of the time flows etc.). The events generated, the relationships realized and the behaviours exhibited cannot be separated from the space in which they take place.
Heterotopias are experiences, so combination of space and time, real and alternate. The space, which on the surface appears to be a collage, is actually a place of coexistence, a conglomeration of heterogeneous elements, a total of micro-environments that overlap and cohabit. It consists of places individual and collective, where the materiality of the space does not enclose the reality. The spatial organization reflects and combines the fantastic, the idea or the dream of social organization, the quality of human relationships in the now, which now was once tomorrow, the dream of yesterday.
Going through an heterotopic space, you can’t be oblivious to the situation that surrounds you. But also cannot depend on it. Formed within or outside the city, being constantly in interaction with it, heterotopias can shape the city, but mainly are shaped by it. Attracted by various activities and are clearly not closed and unaffected shapes, are led to this situation by other factors. They share some internal commons, they accept the same values, and their priorities operate in the same line. As a result of this, it attributed a specific identity, as it happens with general members of any group. If we put it more romantically, these places are spaces of desire, of permanent imbalance. They are bases of ablation of formalism and coercion, creating moments of game and of unpredictable situations. The satisfaction of the basic needs, writes Lefebvre, fails to choke the fundamental unsatisfied desires. Exactly at this point is where the permanent imbalance is reproduced. There is a dynamic state that is controlled by the people involved in this, which varies and is determined by their relations, space and time of actions. It is the experience of continuing experimentation. Space becomes completely terrestrial, any ideas where grown, become a reality. Here the old classical humanism (see public buildings and modernism) is no more recognized. The “human scale” is generated at that same moment. This is what gives value to these other places. Thus, the space formed is far from irrelevance and insignificance and the environment develops its own values.
Even though heterotopias are formally related to space, it seems that the main reference are the social implications of every society. Foucault’s heterotopias are related to the forbidden or temporarily enclosed spaces outside of the “normal” social forms. Lefebvre, even if he tries to escape the spatial boundaries of heterotopic spaces, describing them as places of challenge, controversy or resistance, asking for the right to the city, he implies that every society produces its own social space. The additional work of Soja and Cenzatti on heterotopias, proves the importance of adjusting to the social transitions, elaborating a supplementary third space or adding a new/ different type of heterotopia trying to adjust also in the new social conditions. Shane’s view on urban design through the prism of heterotopias, gives explanations not only on the urban structures but also on the social structures and networks.
Therefore, it is not about heterotopia of crisis, but it is about society of crisis. It is about society of deviation, society of illusion, society of compensation, society of difference and society of values.