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FOUCAULT AND ARCHITECTURE

In the lecture, History of Architecture 2, the notion of space has been examined
to enable an understanding of this aspect of architecture and its meaning to
modern 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 ;space
is fundamental in any exercise of power; (Rabinow 1984: 252). In relation to
space and power, he is interested in the question of ;Who is empowered by any
arrangement of this space?; and ;Who has the ability to act, to influence or to
authorise action?;
Based on his argument, this essay will examine how space became fundamental in
the mechanism of Foucault;s power-knowledge. Foucault;s idea on space in
relation to power will be gauged from a study of his interviews and writings
with his architectural examples expressing the mechanism.

Foucault and Architecture


Foucault;s interest in power might start from the Baconian dictum of ;Knowledge
is 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 Knowledge
is discussed in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). His concept of this aspect
of archaeology displaced ;the human subject from the central role it played in
the humanism dominant in our culture since Kant.; Consequently, the withdrawal
of the central role of the human was portrayed as ;objects of disciplinary
knowledge; in Discipline and Punish (1975). To Foucault, knowledge is no longer
the ;autonomous intellectual structures that happen to be employed as Baconian
instruments 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 these
systems. 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 the
eighteenth 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 eighteenth
century 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 governmental
rationality. Spatial distribution in the city planning, in terms of displacing
collective facilities, hygiene and private architecture, is an expression of the
rationality of the government and, through that, the government established
orderly, efficient control of the city and its territory. The same principle
governing spatial distribution of the city applied to the state.
Therefore, space and its resultant power is controlled and arranged by the
government. However, in the early nineteenth century with the development of
technology, particularly railway and electricity, and the failure of spatial
distribution of government rationality caused by persisting urban problems, such
as revolts and epidemics, spatialization of the city and the state ceased
further to be in the domain of governmental power and spatial issues that was
the 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 and
the development of technology. The spatialization of the eighteenth century to
govern people in the state is now shifted to deal with new variables of
territory, communication and speed and, according to Foucault, ;these escape the
domain of architects; (244). The society is not necessarily so spatialized as
the state, because the remoteness between places within the state is overcome by
the railroads and, therefore, communication between places is much easier than
before. Consequently, there are ;changes in the behaviour of people.; The
changes in behaviour refer to, as Foucault quotes from a theory developed in
France on the railroads, increasing ;familiarity among people; and developing
;the new forms of human universality.; (243). In the development of the new
forms of human universality, unlike the state that relies on spatialization of
the territory, ;the society is not necessarily so spatialized; (242). The new
relationship between power and space is formed based on the society, not on the
state.
Bearing in mind the shift of the presence of power from the state to the
society, Foucault focused his interest on human science which is closely
connected to the society, such as psychology, sociology, economics, linguistics
and medicine, and, as he states, ;the goal of my work during the last twenty
years has not been to analyse the phenomena of power, nor to elaborate the
foundations of such an analysis. My objective, instead, has been to create a
history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made
subjects; (Dreyfus 1982: 208)
Therefore, Foucault;s interest in the subject causes him to investigate ;forms
which are the distinctive feature of modern practices of control over the
transformation 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 the
hybrid ;transforms those who are subject to it and it uses knowledge as a
resource 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, he
maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects. In relation to
knowledge tied to systems and human beings as objects of disciplinary knowledge,
Foucault introduced Panopticon. It is a historical reference from the eighteenth
century of Jeremy Bentham;s imaginary project and quoted to explore his concepts
on 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; (Foucault
1979: 201) and its principle is generated from the relationship between the
inmates, 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 space
are 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, spatial
configuration or arrangements of space, Foucault claimed, is ;to ensure a
certain allocation of people in space, a canalization of their circulation, as
well as the coding of their reciprocal relations.; And, he continues, ;it is not
only considered as an element in space, but is especially thought of as a plunge
into a field of social relations in which it brings about some specific effects;
(Rainbow: 253). In other words, Foucault contends that architecture by
arrangements of space can determine activities of people through allocation, a
canalization or the coding and their relations. Arrangements of space,
therefore, implicate the presence of power to carry out such activities.
Arrangements of space for the activities may need an order and this order
becomes a hierarchy of spatial arrangement in architecture by power that is
obvious to a society and embodied in their cultural codes. According to
Foucault, a military camp is an exceptional example, ;where the military
hierarchy is to be read in the ground itself, by the place occupied by the tents
and the buildings reserved for each rank.; He then continues, ;It produces
precisely through architecture a pyramid of power;(255).
In conclusion, as seen in the example of Panopticon, ;power transforms those who
subject to it, and it uses knowledge as resource of doing so; (Hirst: 56). The
mechanism of power-knowledge is understood by arrangements of space, because
power required space as a catalyst to activate its appearance (Desley 1996).
Through the closer investigation of Foucault;s power-knowledge and space, we
find that spatial arrangements in architecture are based on a hierarchical order
of itself and the order in it refers to the presence of power. Therefore, as
Foucault stated, ;space is fundamental in any exercise of power; (Rainbow: 252)
to create ;the history of different modes by which , in our culture, human
beings are made subjects; (Dreyfus 1982: 208).
REFERENCES
Dreyfus, Hubert. 1982. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics.
Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press
Fillingham, Lydia, A. Foucault for Beginners. 1993. New York: Writers and
Readers Publishing.
Flynn, Thomas, R. 1991. The Monist, vol 74, April: 165-186.
Foucault, Michel. 1986. Of Other Spaces. Diacratics 16, 1 Spring: 22-27.
Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972-1977. Colin Gordon. ed. Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1979. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison. New York:
Vintage.
Gutting, Gary. 1995. Michael Foucault. In Robert Audi. ed. The Cambridge
Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hirst, Paul. 1992. Foucault and Architecture. AA Files, no. 26, Autumn: 52-60.
Kearney, Richard. ed. 1996. The Continental Philosophy Reader. London and New
York: Routledge.
Peterson, Steven, K. 1980. Space and Anti-Space. Harvard Architectural Review 1,
Spring: 88-113.
Rainbow, Paul. 1984. The Foucault Reader. London: Penguin Books.
Rajchman, John. 1990. What;s New in Architecture. In Andrew Benjamin. ed.
Philosophy and Architecture. London: Academic Editions.