Designing the heterotopia: from social ideology to spatial morphology

  • Olgu ÇalışkanEmail author
  • Duygu Cihanger Ribeiro
  • Onur Tümtürk
Original Article


The established binary oppositions like ‘modern vs. traditional’ or ‘urban vs. rural’ fall short either to comprehend or to (re)generate cultural complexity of the contemporary societies. This problem is usually exposed by the critiques questioning the nature of design in urbanism reducing the domain to formal, functional or stylistic expressions in practice. The alternative track exposing another strategic outlook in the search for ‘enforced’ diversity within the neighbourhood, however, reveals some other social drawbacks in practice. Considering the fact that each community formation creates its own cultural interpretation of the living environment not only at the levels of building and street, but also at that of collective urban fabric, one could argue that the current urban design frameworks fall short to respond to the intrinsic complexity of localities in the city. An alternative approach, in this regard, requires a serious shift in the desired image of multiplicity of urban form. In that view, the paper addresses the concept of ‘heterotopia’ as the theoretical framework of a new design approach for the generation of an open urban fabric accommodating different socio-spatial settings in an integrated manner. To that end, the paper discusses ‘heterotopology’ as an alternative spatial conception of social diversity which embraces the fundamental ability of different communities to produce their own culture and to influence spatial form within the larger urban context. To elaborate the argument, the thought experiment of two design workshops is utilised as a kind of (methodological) ‘research by design’ from which a series of relational codes have been derived to generate heterogonous, but an integrated urban fabric. Eventually, the proposed morphology based on the autonomy of the fragments within an integrated (larger) spatial context is suggested as an alternative to the prevalent socio-spatial models of diversity in planning.


Heterotopology Socio-cultural diversity Ideology Urban morphology Spatial design 



The authors would like to thank Orhan Sarıaltun (the chief of The Chamber of City Planners in Turkey), Hüseyin Gazi Çankaya (the general manager of The Chamber of City Planners in Turkey); Ayhan Erdoğan for their everlasting support and motivation for the workshops to be realised for three years; Professor D. Grahame Shane for his original theoretical inspiration on the issue; and the students who participated to the workshops by putting an incredible effort for the production of design models. Without them, it would be impossible to discuss the issue on a concrete basis.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Olgu Çalışkan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Duygu Cihanger Ribeiro
    • 1
  • Onur Tümtürk
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of City and Regional PlanningMETU Faculty of ArchitectureAnkaraTurkey

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