Conceptual Cluster 6: Chora
Great Expectations III
Elisabeth Grosz introduces the notion of Chora through Plato’s original text Timaeus and Critias. Plato here construes chora as a connection between the intelligible, unchanging (perhaps even final) world and the sensible, visible and changing world (Plato, 1965, Grosz 2000). Chora is used to explain a shift from idea to reality, “it insinuates itself between the oppositional terms in the impossible no-man’s land of the excluded middle” (Grosz 2000). Plato claims that no definite properties can be attached to chora, at the same time as chora has all qualities.”It is the mother of all qualities without itself having any – except its capacity to take on, to nurture, to bring into existence any other kind of being” (Ibid.). In the resisting of qualities Plato maintains an intermediary function and a receptable status (although resisting properties possibly is a way of accepting them, in positioning oneself outside (properties), as a negation which has to assume the negated to exist). Grosz delivers heavy critique of the concept of chora as treated by Plato and Derrida, and claims that “…chora serves to produce a founding concept of femininity whose connections with women and female corporeality have been severed, producing a disembodied femininity as the ground for the production of a (conceptual and social) universe.” (Ibid.).
Then, is there any potential to be found in the usage of certain aspects of chora in relation to the tools and representations used in urban planning? Could the notion of chora be linked to an existing planning document, and in this association underscore the multifaceted process of planning? One is easily infatuated and spellbound by physical and temporal representations of “no-man’s land”, such as border crossings; literally no-man’s land, the soil beneath an embassy in a foreign country; obvious questions about the soil’s nationality come to mind, dawn; neither day nor night, per definition ephemeral where change is immediately and tangibly felt. Can a plan designed by the City Planning Administration in Lund offer some of chora’s intrinsic and transient characteristic?
The structure plan (2012) at hand is a mix of a representation of an actual situation and an imagined vision of the future Brunnshög area in Lund. The already existing residential areas, drawn in great detail, within North East Lund appear to be a depiction of reality. The areas that are expected to be built in a near future are drawn with thicker lines and look more general and undecided –like abstractions or fantasies. The areas and elements of the map that are planned for the future consists mostly of various shades in more saturated colors than the pale color field representing the already existing. All contour lines are marked on the map, but no heights are quantified, the topographical information is thus limited. Existing main roads on Brunnshög; Odarslövsvägen; Utmarksvägen lingers between the present and the future, their extension is expected to be the same in the future. The lettering on the map is identical whether representing existing buildings, fields and roads or future buildings and streets. High prior knowledge about the area is essential in order to comprehend the information about Brunnshög’s planned and expected future.
The reality of the plan is both what is now and what is envisioned or dreamt for future change. It floats between the two positions of present and future and has a fluid and temporal quality, much like a medieval painting that on the same surface tells an evolving story that moves across time – like a comic strip within one frame. The plan is representing a state of transition, as chora, both resisting and accepting properties, and is depending on which communicational convention one takes as a starting point when reading the map. Perhaps a plan or a map could also be read transitively; one thing after another, somewhat like reading a text, set in time with a certain progress; even if resisting the logic of beginning and end some information is processed initially having the handicap of not having established a connection to information read later.
Municipality of Lund, Strukturplan Lund NE/Brunnshög, 2012
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Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Women, Chora, Dwelling’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000
Plato, Timaeus and Critias, London: Penguin Books, 1965.