In 1967,In 1967, Michel Foucault gave a lecture based on the book “Of Other Spaces” to a group of architecture students. Using his notion of “heterotopia,” Foucault offered concepts and fresh ways to look at space. According to Foucault, space has a past and is inexorably related to how time is experienced. The development and extension of this history have moved on to other environments in recent years. He examines how ideas of space have changed through time and conclude that the Middle Ages presented “the space of emplacement,” which included “a hierarchic ensemble of locations.” gave a lecture based on the book “Of Other Spaces” to a group of architecture students. Using his notion of “heterotopia,” Foucault offered concepts and fresh ways to look at space. According to Foucault, space has a past and is inexorably related to how time is experienced. The development and extension of this history have moved on to other environments in recent years. He examines how ideas of space have changed through time and conclude that the Middle Ages presented “the space of emplacement,” which included “a hierarchic ensemble of locations.”

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Michel Foucault_©


Foucault created the concept of the site to introduce a brand-new spatial kind, the heterotopia. Heterotopia is contextually connected to the more well-known term “Utopia,” which Foucault uses as heterotopia’s theoretical opposite. He says that exterior sites like utopias and heterotopias have the peculiar characteristic of existing in connection with all the other sites, but in such a way as to question, negate, or invert the set of relations that they happen to identify, mirror, or reflect.

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David Kohn Architects Heterotopic Idea of an arts space of future_©

Heterotopias are genuine locations that serve as “counter-sites,” symbolizing, opposing, and inverting all other traditional sites, in contrast to utopias, which are imaginary, wonderful, and perfect surroundings. The heterotopia portrays a juxtapositional, relational setting with strange places and apparent conflicts. To illustrate the duality and contradictions, the truth and unreality of utopia and heterotopia, Foucault utilized the metaphor of a mirror. A mirror is a metaphor for heterotopia since it is a real object that affects our connection with our image, but it also serves as a metaphor for utopia because the image you see in it does not exist.

Escher’s “Hand with Reflecting Sphere,” in which the artist is shown as a reflection in a glass sphere held in the artist’s hand, likewise addresses the mixed, combined mirror experience. Escher’s illustration has an intriguing feature in which every little element in the room—tables, chairs, wall art, and bookshelves—is reflected within the sphere’s virtual realm. On the other hand, the hand holding the sphere is depicted against an undifferentiated, uniformly grey background. The hand of the artist holding the sphere should probably be situated in the actual place and should depict certain elements of the surroundings. Escher, however, has reversed these orientations, making the virtual space appear more “real” than the space that the hand is supposed to be occupying, which in Escher’s illustration is simply a space. This pairing and switching of real-world and digital settings mirror some of the “mixed, shared experience” that Foucault tries to capture in his idea of heterotopia.

To create his “heterotopology,” a taxonomy of different spatial types of heterotopias, Foucault established six guiding principles that govern the existence of heterotopias:

First Principle: Heterotopia of Crisis and Deviation.

Its central thesis is that heterotopias probably exist in every single civilisation on earth. In the so-called primitive communities, there is a particular kind of heterotopia called “crisis heterotopia”. People who are in a crisis concerning society and the environment in which they live, such as teenagers, menstrual women, pregnant women, the elderly, etc., are allowed in these spaces. These crisis heterotopias are rapidly disappearing from our civilisation, notwithstanding a few remaining specimens. Institutions like the boarding school, particularly in their nineteenth-century iteration, or required military service for young men have probably contributed to this, as the initial signs of sexual virility were expected to appear “elsewhere” than at home. 

However, these heterotopias of crisis are now disappearing and are being replaced by what we may refer to as heterotopias of deviation: those locations where individuals are situated whose behaviour deviates from the desired mean or norm. Examples of this include retirement communities, mental health facilities, prisons, and nursing homes that, in a way, straddle the heterotopias of crisis and deviation because, after all, old age is both a crisis and a deviation because, in our society where leisure is the norm, idleness is a type of deviation.

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Women’s Corridor of Mental Asylum_©Wikimedia Commons

Second Principle: Heterotopia of Emplacement and Displacement.

Heterotopias are places where disparate or opposing forms of space come together, and society may mould them to function in several ways, changing how they are used through time. Foucault cited cemeteries as an example.

The cemetery is undoubtedly a unique location compared to other cultural venues. Since every person and every family has relatives buried in the cemetery, it is a place that is yet connected to all the locations of the city, state, society, village, etc. The cemetery has almost always existed in western society. But significant adjustments have been made. The cemetery was situated close to the church in the centre of the city until the end of the eighteenth century. There was a hierarchy of potential tombs in it. There were several individual graves, the charnel house, where corpses lost their last remnants of individuality, and the church’s tombs. Modern cultures have given this cemetery, which is located inside the church’s sacred space, a different appearance. 

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Reykjavík cemetery at Hólavellir_©Ann-Sofie Gremaud

In any event, it is only from the beginning of the eighteenth century that everyone has the right to a little box for their decomposition. On the other hand, cemeteries have only recently started to be built along the edges of towns. A fixation with death as a “disease” develops in connection with the individualisation of death and the bourgeois ownership of the cemetery. According to myth, the dead spread diseases to the living, and the proximity of the dead to homes, churches, and other buildings- almost in the centre of the street- is what spreads death itself. The cemetery, therefore, came to represent the other city, the dismal resting place for each family, rather than the sacred and eternal centre of the metropolis.

Third Principle: Heterotopia of Juxtaposition

Heterotopia can bring together a variety of disparate locations in the same physical location. The theatre and the movies, where a variety of settings collide on the stage or screen, portray a heterotopia of several settings combined into one.

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Theatre- an example of the juxtaposition of two different worlds_©

The heterotopia can juxtapose numerous locations and sites that are mutually exclusive in one physical location. The cinema is an extremely strange rectangular room where, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space, but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias that take the form of contradictory sites is the garden. The theatre brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another. The traditional Persian garden was a sacred area intended to unite within its rectangle four parts representing the four corners of the world, with space still more sacred than the others that were like an umbilicus, the navel of the world at its centre. All of the garden’s vegetation was intended to unite in this space, in this sort of microcosm. The garden is the tiniest portion of the globe, and after that, the entire world. Since the dawn of time, the garden has served as a type of joyful, universalism-promoting heterotopia.

Fourth Principle: Heterotopia of Time

Heterochronies, as defined by Foucault, are “slices in time” that are commonly connected to heterotopias for the sake of symmetry. The heterotopia can function at full capacity because of the intersection and phasing of space and time, which results in an “absolute rupture” with conventional perceptions of time and temporality. 

First off, there are heterotopias where time is perpetually accumulating, like museums and libraries. Museums and libraries have evolved into heterotopias where time never stops accumulating and reaching its pinnacle. In contrast, the desire to collect everything, to create a kind of global archive, the desire to enclose all eras, forms, and tastes in one location, the idea of creating a location of all times that is separate from time and impervious to its ravages, the plan to organise time in this manner as a sort of endless accumulation in a fixed location- these are all ideas that are contrary to time. 

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Accumulation of time in libraries in the form of books_©

Contrary to these time accumulation-related heterotopias, others are connected to time in its most fluttering, fleeting, fragile aspect, or time in the festival mode. These heterotopias are wholly temporal and not directed toward the eternal.

For instance, take the fairgrounds as an example. These wonderful, empty spaces on the edges of cities occasionally come alive with stalls, exhibitions, bizarre things, wrestlers, snake women, fortune tellers, and other performers. Vacation towns, like those Polynesian communities that provide city dwellers with a condensed three weeks of primitive and perpetual nudity, are a novel type of temporal heterotopia that has recently been developed. You can also see that the huts of Djerba are somewhat related to libraries and museums because of the two heterotopias that collide here: the heterotopia of the festival and the heterotopia of the eternity of accumulating time. 

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Fairgrounds: Fleeting Heterotopias_©

Fifth Principle: Heterotopia of Opening and Closing.

While some heterotopias appear open to the public but “conceal odd exclusions,” others need special passage rituals. Contrary to what is often thought of as more freely available public space, heterotopias always entail a system of opening and shutting that makes them both isolated and permeable. Force is required to enter these heterotopias, such as prisons and barracks, or ritual purification or hygienic cleansing, such in Muslim hammams and Scandinavian saunas.

Although it appears that everyone may access the heterotopic places, this is simply a delusion- by entering, we are being excluded. 

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Turkish Bath_Mazur Travel/Shutterstock
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The Panopticon Prison_©Romain Veillon

Sixth Principle: Heterotopia of Illusion and Compensation

While heterotopia of compensation seeks to produce a true space that is different from all others, heterotopia of illusion seeks to create an illusionary environment that exposes all genuine spaces. As a result, heterotopias provide us with the opportunity to face our delusions while simultaneously inspiring brand-new fantasies about possible utopias. The most extreme examples of heterotopias of compensation, a realised utopia, a very strictly planned settlement that symbolises the sign of Christianity, and a mechanised order of communal life, are puritan societies from the 17th century in America and the Jesuit villages of Paraguay, according to Foucault.

Brothels_©Jean-Leon Gerome

Brothels and colonies are two extreme examples of heterotopia. If we consider the boat to be a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself while also being given over to the infinite sea, and that it travels from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel. As far as the colonies in search of the most priceless treasures they conceal in their gardens, we can see why the ship is the epitome of a heterotopia. Dreams fade, adventure is replaced by espionage, and the police replace pirates in societies without boats.

References (n.d.). COMM 149F – Summary Of other spaces. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2022].

‌Sudradjat, I. (2012). Foucault, the Other Spaces, and Human Behaviour. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 36, pp.28–34. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.03.004 [Accessed 16 Dec. 2022].

‌Foucault, M. (1967). Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias. [online] Michel Foucault, Info. Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2022].


Shivani Jadhav, a Mumbai-based architect, is attempting to explore architecture through words. She is passionate about discovering new perspectives on structures and bringing them to life through her writing. Her experiment focuses on the social, cultural, and philosophical aspects of architecture.