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urban territories 1 Intervention Project «Hamburger Winter Dom» tutors:

Dipl.-Ing. Katja Heinecke, Katrin Klitzke, M.A., Prof. Bernd Kniess


Aleksandrs Feļtins

What lies behind the fairground?

Hamburg 2011

fig. 1 Hamburger Winter Dom seen from the ferris wheel

Hamburger Winter Dom is a fairground which takes place in Heiligengeistfeld and transforms this empty area to the city quarter full of life for the period three months. All structures (amusements, tents, trailers) are literally parked or mounted for a limited period of time. Thus, as Foucault defines it, we can call this place a temporal heterotopia, opposite to those which accumulates, stores time and memories [1]: (…) these heterotopias that are linked to the accumulation of time, there are those linked, on the contrary, to time in its most flowing, transitory, precarious aspect, to time in the mode of the festival. These heterotopias are not oriented toward the eternal, they are rather absolutely temporal [chroniques]. Such, for example, are the fairgrounds, these’ marvelous empty sites on the outskirts of cities that teem once or twice a year with stands, displays, heteroclite objects, wrestlers, snakewomen, fortune-tellers, and so forth. (…) First visit to the site, or field, was during the period of its construction. The workers had been arriving on the trucks with their devices and with their trailers. Later, they mounted both their workplaces and homes. Notwithstanding the seemingly chaotic arrangement perceived from the ground, the temporal quarter under construction is well organized: even the surface of Heiligengeistfeld has different pavement types which corresponds to the certain rules. During next site visits, the Dom appeared as an already complete place, with heavy lit streets and hilarious atmosphere — a kind of hide, other place with no apparent connection to the city and its daily life. At the same time, great part of the workers (amusement device operators, shopkeepers, bartenders etc.) live in the Dom. On the other side of the passages of the Dom, trailers and mobile homes

were parked. Thus, Dom is also a lived place like a trailer park, Bauwagenplatz, or even like temporary city such as Quartzsite in Nevada, USA [2]. Since the Dom is temporal urban setting, which laws of space we can learn from it? What is specific to the Dom and what is generic as it is just a trailer park behind the fairground? How this place is produced and structured? How residents and workers use the Dom and what they think about it? How they perceive and appropriate this place? The study of actual geography and physical arrangements «from above» in these case are less appropriate, because they rather hide structure or more precise, confuse with apparent disorder (fig.1). The method of participant observation appeared much more appropriate in order to uncover the hidden. Here, participant observation had been performed by means of express interviews of users of Dom’s space. For inquiry, specific group of users had been chosen — the workers in the Dom, who we met at the their workplaces during opening hours. Overabundant visitors, seemed very much attracted by props and primary activity — to have fun and hence they were mere lost and unable to have a specific knowledge about the Dom’s space. Respondents were asked how do they use the space of the Dom: where they go and why, where they don’t go and which places they visit and why. In the most successful occasions some respondents also told reasons for their spatial behaviour and opinions about certain places. Interviews had been taken in the last weeks of opening of the fairground: at this point of time, respondents presumably would have gathered the experiences, opinions and prejudices about the space they had been using. Each answer were coupled with map


fig. 1 map of the Dom with recorded places and traces of the workers

Legend Everyday life paths of the workers Parking places



Abodes/dwellings of the repondents Meeting places of the respondents P

Workplaces of the respondents Commons (common places)

of mentioned places and paths (fig.2). From the first sight, answers seemed rather banal and repetitive. But once they had been put in context of research question, first revelations appeared. The seemingly repetitiveness pursued to think that there are certain common ideas about the Dom, which I would call spatial concepts [3]. They are not necessary places, but rather perceptive notions of use, setting, rite of passage and status in the workers’ society. Together, it was possible to distinguish twelve concepts, which formed a «dictionary» for further analysis: abode/dwelling | meeting place | common | work[place] | passage | hide/roundabout | forum| promenade | street | restricted area | inside | outside At this points, they are just generalisation of repetitive expressions used to describe the Dom; but they alone do not unveil underpinning mechanisms of structuring of space through rules, perception, activities, rituals of daily life, predefined composition etc. Nevertheless, their unique combinations, although repetitive in some cases, might uncover some cohesiveness and contradictions in structure and use of the Dom. At this point, remembering our first impressions of visiting the Dom, imagined and applied by “alien” or “general” visitor of the Dom, seemed very different from individual notions of the respondents. Let’s look closer at some answers and diverse combinations of spatial concepts. More or less every respondent described a triangle of places related to work, residing or activities purely related to family life, and place to socialize. The difference appeared in the ways how one is commuting: the motivation of choice of certain way and associated perceptions differed remarkably.

For instance, one respondent, the woman working at the Dom but living in Hamburg, avoided areas occupied by sleeping trailers, and made her way through the visitor’s passages. Interesting was the fact, that the people she knew and meet from everyday life routine, are in the close vicinity of her workplace. Here, the concept of the «passage» is doubled with the «street» or better «my block» — more complex idea of place to commute, reside/work and meet the fellows in the more or less predictable manner. The other meaning of «street» could be read from the answer of the student who was working up at the Dom, also having a place of residence in the «City/outside»: here, the street is rather a continuation of outlying urban structure. For some respondents, the concept of «passage» through associated motivations and procedures gains the meaning of «promenade» — the place to observe others and expose oneself, the kind of non–verbal communication and entertainment to mitigate the routine. This opinion comes from the respondents, who either motivated their choice of space of movement in order to “see the people” or “to take a walk”. Other group of respondents gave preference to the trailer occupied areas because of the different reasons. For some, in contrast to above mentioned respondents, the concept of «passage» refers to the «hide» — the space for uninterrupted, unnoticed movement through the dark, trailer occupied areas, coupled with the preference to avoid random contact with other individuals. In another case, the idea of segregation, of limited use is expressed in the concept of «forum» and «common». The former is associated with the special meeting place Schausteller Areal, where workers of thematic park Märchenwald are meeting each other. The latter is both established fire-fighters ways and the trash disposal places — those commonly

spatial practice

representations of space

– workplace – abode/dwelling – meeting place – passage – inside

– passage – street – common – outside

fig. 3 Lefebvre’s triad of Production of Space and intrconnections of Spatial Concepts

production of space

spaces of representation

– promenade – hide/roundabout – restricted area – forum

used by more or less everyone from working personnel and which are creating spontaneous contacts among the members of this specific group. Even more curious details unveil the concept of «meeting place». First, it is both abode/dwelling of the respondent and his workplace. On the other hand, many of them gave the preference to meet «outside» — any place beyond the limits of the Dom. The concept of «outside» sometimes is defined by acknowledgement, that it is everything except someone’s immediate surrounding of work and place of residence («abode»). Here, a girl from Märchenwald, used concept «inside» as her circle of working, living, meeting places as opposed to the «outside», which is not being used and known by her. We see from the above mentioned observations the multivalent relationships between concepts of space. They do not define any bipolar image, but rather set contested, plural picture of the structure of the Dom. Here, Lefebvre’s triad of the production of space as a relationship of spatial practice, representations of space and representational spaces seems useful tool to make further conclusions [4]. If we try summarize the concepts according to this triad, we can distinguish:  the routines associated with daily life activities make spatial practice or perceived space;  the organisational structure of fire-fighters’ ways and streets for visitors as conceived space or representation of space;  associated opinions and meanings are lived, or spaces of representation. It is important to remember, that above mentioned types of production are in the dialectical relationship thus it is necessary to

types of interrelation contrasting complementary

“set them alongside”. If we put the spatial concepts according to the triad, we see relationships between three means of production — and these relationships are both excluding and complementary (fig. 3). For example, the «hide» and «promenade» are contrasting, but «street» and «hide» could be simultaneous. The couplings of «hide» and «forum», «passage», «street» and «meeting place» are also complementary. Mapping and superimposition of Lefebvre’s types of production helps to illustrate the spatial co–existence of rather contrasting perceptions of space of the Dom (fig. 4). To conclude, we can observe, that seemingly chaotic space of the Dom develops through its life–cycle a multivalent order. The predefined paths of the visitors and fire–fighters set basic, «top– down» structure, which is acclaimed by everyone. Spatial practices of worker’s daily lives both follows this structural setting and makes deviations. At the same time, both rules and practices, induce meanings of space, and vice versa, meanings and prejudices influence spatial behaviour and pursue to violate or follow the rules from above. This way of describing space does not tend to set fixed, objective structure, but rather its advantage is kind of ability to see manifold ways of appropriation. It is not about giving an operative strategy, but rather about learning from the space and its inhabitants. BIBLIOGRAPHY [1] “Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces (1967), Heterotopias.” [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 25-Mar-2011]. [2] R. Sumrell, Blue Monday : stories of absurd realities and natural philosophies. Barcelona: Actar Editorial, 2006. [3] A. Strauss, Basics of qualitative research : grounded theory procedures and techniques. London: SAGE publications, 1995. [4] H. Lefebvre, The production of space, [Nachdr.]. Malden MA [u.a.]: Blackwell, 2007.

3. “Lived Space” or Spaces of Representaton: opinions, prehudices and meanings

fig. 4 Spatial representation of the Lefebvre’s triad in the Dom


common place

restricted area restricted area

outside 2. Representational space: pre–defined structure of the Dom

passage street

1. Recorded «Spatial Practices» of the workers in the Dom




What lies behind the fairground?  

urban territories 1. Intervention Project «Hamburger Winter Dom». HafenCity University, Urban Design Department

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