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09 October 2012

Assoc Prof Mical says spatial alterity is space or spaces within a society that reflect the community’s cultural and social beliefs. Image: istock9819503 Associate Professor of Architecture Dr Thomas Mical will discuss the importance of unusual and unfamiliar spaces in everyday life at a free public lecture on Monday October 15.

The lecture, part of the University of South Australia’s Knowledge Works series, will reveal that just as cultural diversity enriches the urban experience, diversity can also enhance urban spaces.

Assoc Prof Mical, who recently joined UniSA’s School of Art, Architecture and Design, says spatial alterity is space or spaces within a society that reflect the community’s cultural and social beliefs.

“The term ‘spatial alterity’ is a reflection that culture and social practices occur in spaces and are sited,” he says.

“As architects and designers we have an obligation to consider not just users, but also the unknown users in the design and transformation of livable spaces, both urban and interiors.

“My lecture will explore some of the interesting and exciting possibilities and potential for understanding and imagining spaces in our cities, not only as they are, but as they might be.”

According to Assoc Prof Mical, there are many diverse communities within society who introduce new and unusual elements to spaces that may not necessarily represent the whole community. He says alterity gives a name to these encounters and misrepresentations that are creating distinct changes in the character and the use of public areas.

“There are so many spaces today, particularly in large cities with growing and shifting immigrant communities, where one culture introduces new and unforeseen uses of existing spaces that might be indecipherable to others,” Assoc Prof Mical says.

“My hometown of Chicago is fascinating for this. Many of the neighbourhoods grew as immigrant enclaves, and as the second generation acclimated, excelled and moved out, new communities occupied the old neighbourhoods, often with radically different family structures, religious institutions, public festivals, social practices that create distinct changes in the character and usage of the public realm.”

In his lecture, Assoc Prof Mical will present a variety of international, historical and cultural examples of cities and spaces, both real and imaginary, to illustrate how designers and the use of space can transform the world around us.   

“Designers often live in three worlds at once: understanding the past, the present and the future. The traditional role of the designer is to introduce the unexpected and unfamiliar as a visionary future,” he says.

“One way to do this is to recognise and appreciate aspects of alterity, as the mysterious other, as a source of design insight and innovation.”

Assoc Prof Mical’s lecture ‘Spatial Alterity: the importance of unusual and unfamiliar spaces in everyday life’ will be held at 6pm on Monday October 15 at the Bradley Forum, Hawke Building, UniSA City West Campus.

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