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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Out of Conceived Space: For Another History of Architecture


This paper discusses two processes of production of space and how historiography of architecture relates to them. The first one is based on professional design of extraordinary spaces (monuments) and is widespread during the 20th century, even in the design of ordinary buildings. We understand it through Henri Lefebvre’s ‘conceived space’: the architect’s intellectual work dominates the builder’s manual work by means of abstract concepts, tools and codes. Its products are the objects of prevailing histories of architecture reinforcing the very concepts used before. In contrast, the second process relates to Lefebvre’s ‘lived space’. It is collective and cooperative, characterized by people’s engagement and negotiation on nonhierarchical building-sites, in which design, building and use are simultaneous. It creates everyday spaces in constant change, such as Brazilian favelas. Prevailing histories of architecture do not include this second process, because there are no concepts, schools, authors or finished products to be reified, while alternative approaches, also called ‘new history’ (School of Annales, ‘history from below’, microhistory, Alltagsgeschichte), have not yet reached the academic field of architecture. Our question is how to include the production of lived space in this field, as the way of making history is crucial to define the understanding of students and professionals about their role in society.

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