Until the 1970s, space was considered to be a blank canvas; a passive and apolitical container filled in by human activity. However, the 1970s ushered in a reinterpretation of spatiality, whereby space could be conceived as a result of social production. Henri Lefebvre’s theory of spatiality remains one of the most convincingly articulated explorations of this. The Production of Space (1974) outlines Lefebvre’s ‘trialectics’ of spatiality, in which space is a product of a three-way dialectic between perceived, conceived and lived space. Within ‘perceived space’ (le perçu), the banal routine of everyday practices and perceptions are played out, whilst ‘conceived space’ (le conçu) represents the space of cartographers, urban planners and property speculator who concern themselves with representation and theories of spatiality. Lefebvre’s third space is ‘lived space’ (le vécu), representing the spatial imaginary of the time which is alive and accessible, with the power to transcend and refigure conceived space.
Lefebvre’s argument implies a shift from the conception of absolute space to the notion of social space. It embraces processes of space production, and the multiplicity of such processes and spaces. It implies that the social production of urban space is fundamental to the reproduction of society. In this sense, space can serve as a powerful tool of thought and action. Furnace Park is a result of entwining cultural practices, representations and imaginings. It is defined by an on-going and complex process of social construction that is in a constant state of production and reproduction. The space can be both contradictory and conflictual but it remains, nevertheless, a locus for action.
Sarah Murphy-Young, 2013