Michel Foucault in his work on spatial theories focused on studying ‘different spaces’:
“… a range of ‘different spaces’ that somehow challenges or contests the space we live in: not a science of utopias but of heterotopias, a science of absolutely other spaces.” Michel Foucault.
Heterotopia’s reflect and at the same time contest the space they are surrounded by. Foucault describes a number of these other spaces that are in different ways outside the ordinary, including cemeteries, brothels, prisons, asylums, holiday villages and fairs. Heterotopic sites can be found in all cultures, an example being the different spaces primitive cultures set apart for some form of rites of passage, or initiation.
According to Foucault a Heterotopia is simultaneously real and imagined, physical and mental. Heterotopias not only disrupt spatiality they also disrupt temporality, in the space of the cemetery, we experience an awareness of the absolute disruption of time, yet in the space of a fair or holiday park, the temporal break is a fleeting construction we enjoy periodically but certainly outside of our normal routines.
Heterotopias are disturbing places. There has been much academic debate on Heterotopias as a site of resistance, and certainly other theorisis such as Soja and Lefebvre make mention of Heterotopias. Foucault however, stresses that the otherness of Heterotopias are not so much about resistance but a space that draws us out of ourselves in peculiar ways. A Heterotopia exhibits and inaugurates a difference and challenge to the space in which we may feel at home. These emplacements exist out of step and meddle with our sense of interiority. They are spaces where our daily routines occur, they are known and frequented spaces which are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. They have the potential, by their difference, to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, making visible what we are unwilling or unable to see in our own world.