Observing Alex

Casually organized thoughts

Liminal spaces

April 02, 2020

Recent discussions on Lefebvre and the spectacle have drawn my attention to McMansions. More specifically, the master-planned, suburban communities where you find these homes.

The houses are nice, but they lack character and history. In some ways, this blank slate is nice. However, the structures don’t appear designed to last long enough to have this history ever.

I’m brought back to the idea of the spectacle.

I cannot understand people who genuinely enjoy ersatz aesthetics. I tend to believe the only way one can enjoy ersatz spaces is by lying to themself. McMansions are created by pursuing spectacle. The issue is that once the spectacle moves on from the grand estate, the structure has nothing of intrinsic worth. The home becomes a “liminal space”.

“Liminal” as in “relating to a transitional stage” or “occupying a space at the bounds”. These places exist not for themselves, rather only for passing through. So when the action is not there, the space becomes uncomfortable. Some examples include abandoned stores, waiting rooms, school building during summer break, empty warehouses, empty laundry mats, hotel hallways, vacant parking lots, etc. These spaces feel uncomfortable because we already have an assigned context for them, and when they don’t meet their context, they feel unsafe.

Celebration and Seaside, shopping malls, and theme parks—these liminal spaces can be spaces for creativity to flourish, but through recognition of their emptiness.

While these spaces have their role, I think it is important to be aware of our feelings toward them.