What space and whose space? A kaleidoscopic perspective on institutional spatial entanglements

Ebba Högström

Project Period: 2014-2015
Type: Senior research project
Program Area(s): Material Conditions


How societies, spatial structures, landscapes and architecture compose built environments differs in various eras and cultures. Why here? Why this way? These are questions that contain a manifold of answers, with various meanings. Questions on origin, purpose and how something is perceived as ordinary and normal prompt deliberations on why one room, building, location or town plan is considered better than
others. It therefore concerns who defines space and in what ways, the role of space and above all, which space is considered.

This project is about relational space and takes a socio-­material perspective on architecture and the built environment. It is focused not so much on what architectural and urban space are but on what they do, and how they are experienced, dwelled and acted upon (Thrift 2006). The concept of space to be elaborated in this project derives from a post-­structural architectural and geographical notion where meaning, identity and space are interwoven in relational positions (Hight et al. 2009, Murdoch 2006, Foucault 1987). Meanings and actions are not expressions of underlying structures, but rather multiply in complex and unexpected ways due to their relations within the system.
Meanings are not static, but change over time with the emergence of new interpretations and the formation of new identities.

The concept space will be investigated in its diversity of aspects with help from empirical examples of newly built and inaugurated institutional mental health care spaces, e.g. The House of Psychiatry (Psykiatrins Hus) in Uppsala or the new forensic clinic in Flemingsberg (Rättspsykiatrin Huddinge). Comparisons will be made with the landscape of care in the community, exemplified by the low-­key and minor architectures of supported living, cafés and occupational therapy facilities in the community. Focus will be on the representations and organisations of the built manifestations of societal institutions and what kind of idea of society this is mirroring, i.e. the performative aspects of the discourse of institutional space. The aim is to make a contribution to the development of spatial theory in general, and to the research on societal institutions especially.

Researcher(s) Bio and Publications