Urban Function of the Infraordinary: Dry Cleaners as Social Vertexes

By Espen Lunde Nielsen.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: November 15, 2016 $US5.00

The spaces of the city that we pass through daily are worn half invisible by use. Often, we are more concerned with the extraordinary than its opposite—what Georges Perec coined the infraordinary. This paper seeks to uncover the unheeded spaces of dry cleaners as a place of social coexistence that has “a function that is separate from their practical use.” A London dry cleaner serves as a testing ground; critical spatial practices and creative writing are employed as research tools. The dry cleaner does not simply clean clothes but is a social vertex and physical interface through which (non-)events unfold, trajectories thicken, and people of the neighbourhood coexist as familiar strangers through events in real time and deposits over time. It is a semi-public space and an implosion of the external neighbourhood, partly through allowing for occupation, inhabitation, and co-authoring. These latent qualities and spatial materiality of the infraordinary form vital components of the social dimension of the city and the everyday socio-spatial topography. Hence, the author is pledging for a recalibration of current urban development practices by allowing for a higher degree of disordering, porosity, and spatial co-authorship in a planning and architectural perspective, creating interfaces and “spatial gapes” for direct and indirect social interactions between the inhabitants.

Keywords: Infraordinary, Architecture, Socio-spatial Coexistence, Critical Spatial Practice, Familiar Strangers

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.57-67. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: November 15, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.445MB)).

Espen Lunde Nielsen

Ph.D Fellow, Aarhus School of Architecture, Aarhus, Denmark