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Foucault Architecture

Foucault Architecture

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Published by: andreeamariastancu8303 on Dec 07, 2008
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03/07/2013

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FOUCAULT AND ARCHITECTURE
 In the lecture, History of Architecture 2, the notion of space has been examinedto enable an understanding of this aspect of architecture and its meaning tomodern architects of the early twentieth century. Compared to the notion of space to early modern architects, who thought of space as an abstract non-entity(Peterson 1980: 90), Michel Foucault of Postmodern philosophy acclaimed ;spaceis fundamental in any exercise of power; (Rabinow 1984: 252). In relation tospace and power, he is interested in the question of ;Who is empowered by anyarrangement of this space?; and ;Who has the ability to act, to influence or toauthorise action?;Based on his argument, this essay will examine how space became fundamental inthe mechanism of Foucault;s power-knowledge. Foucault;s idea on space inrelation to power will be gauged from a study of his interviews and writingswith his architectural examples expressing the mechanism. Foucault and ArchitectureFoucault;s interest in power might start from the Baconian dictum of ;Knowledgeis Power; and his particular interest in ;Knowledge of human beings, and Power that acts on human beings; (Fillingham 1993: 5). His idea on Power and Knowledgeis discussed in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). His concept of this aspectof archaeology displaced ;the human subject from the central role it played inthe humanism dominant in our culture since Kant.; Consequently, the withdrawalof the central role of the human was portrayed as ;objects of disciplinaryknowledge; in Discipline and Punish (1975). To Foucault, knowledge is no longer the ;autonomous intellectual structures that happen to be employed as Baconianinstruments of power,; but is tied to ;systems of social control; (Gutting 1995:276).Systems like prisons, hospitals and asylums are the source of his thought on;disciplinary power; and architectural space is an indispensable factor of thesesystems. Foucault;s discussion of power, space and systems as the object of systems of social control traced the relationship among them from the end of theeighteenth century.He stated in ;Space, Knowledge, and Power; (1980), referring to the concepts of  power and space that architecture became political at the end of the eighteenthcentury with the power of the government (Rainbow 1980: 239). According to him,architectural space at the end of the eighteenth century in relation to the power of the government had a major role to express and practice governmentalrationality. Spatial distribution in the city planning, in terms of displacingcollective facilities, hygiene and private architecture, is an expression of therationality of the government and, through that, the government establishedorderly, efficient control of the city and its territory. The same principlegoverning spatial distribution of the city applied to the state.Therefore, space and its resultant power is controlled and arranged by thegovernment. However, in the early nineteenth century with the development of technology, particularly railway and electricity, and the failure of spatialdistribution of government rationality caused by persisting urban problems, suchas revolts and epidemics, spatialization of the city and the state ceasedfurther to be in the domain of governmental power and spatial issues that wasthe concern of architects, but instead became that of technicians, like
 
engineers, builders and polytechnicians who can control ;territory,communication and speed; (244).A new idea of society emerged with the failure of governmental rationality andthe development of technology. The spatialization of the eighteenth century togovern people in the state is now shifted to deal with new variables of territory, communication and speed and, according to Foucault, ;these escape thedomain of architects; (244). The society is not necessarily so spatialized asthe state, because the remoteness between places within the state is overcome bythe railroads and, therefore, communication between places is much easier than before. Consequently, there are ;changes in the behaviour of people.; Thechanges in behaviour refer to, as Foucault quotes from a theory developed inFrance on the railroads, increasing ;familiarity among people; and developing;the new forms of human universality.; (243). In the development of the newforms of human universality, unlike the state that relies on spatialization of the territory, ;the society is not necessarily so spatialized; (242). The newrelationship between power and space is formed based on the society, not on thestate.Bearing in mind the shift of the presence of power from the state to thesociety, Foucault focused his interest on human science which is closelyconnected to the society, such as psychology, sociology, economics, linguisticsand medicine, and, as he states, ;the goal of my work during the last twentyyears has not been to analyse the phenomena of power, nor to elaborate thefoundations of such an analysis. My objective, instead, has been to create ahistory of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are madesubjects; (Dreyfus 1982: 208)Therefore, Foucault;s interest in the subject causes him to investigate ;formswhich are the distinctive feature of modern practices of control over thetransformation of subjects; through ;the systematic linking of the categories of  power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.; And compared to the power of sovereignty that consists in prohibition and suppression, power in thehybrid ;transforms those who are subject to it and it uses knowledge as aresource in doing so; (Hirst 1992: 56).For the test of the hybrid of power-knowledge, Foucault introduced ;disciplinary power; of prisons, hospitals, schools or asylums. Disciplinary power, hemaintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects. In relation toknowledge tied to systems and human beings as objects of disciplinary knowledge,Foucault introduced Panopticon. It is a historical reference from the eighteenthcentury of Jeremy Bentham;s imaginary project and quoted to explore his conceptson power-knowledge.Panopticon, Foucault saw, is ;to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power; (Foucault1979: 201) and its principle is generated from the relationship between theinmates, the observer and architectural space. The inmates as objects of disciplinary knowledge in Panopticon are expected to display certain modes of  behaviour which then are supervised by the observer to control and remodel(Hirst 1982: 59). In terms of controlling and remodelling, arrangements of spaceare fulfilling the task. Space was arranged to carry out disciplinary power through knowledge of surveillance.The effective method of carrying out power-knowledge in Panopticon, spatialconfiguration or arrangements of space, Foucault claimed, is ;to ensure a

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