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Urban Scales of Identity & Anonymity a discussion on the models of domus, metropolis and cosmopolis through analysis of the Quinta Monroy project by Elemental

a visual essay by Torun Tigerschiรถld & Frank Reitsma may 2014

“the ‘community’ - the figure of the domus - can be seen to be a homogenizing, universalizing model, which absorbs and therefore denies ‘difference’.” Neil Leach in “the Dark Side of the Domus”

The essay analyses Neil Leach’s “the Dark Side of the Domus” by investigating its underlying body of thought and applies its implications to the Quinta Monroy project by Elemental in Iquique, Chile. In the article Leach juxtaposes Heidegger's domus and Lyotard’s megalopolis as being polarised opposites, not able to coexist. However in the case of Quinta Monroy a physical representation of a synthesis of the theoretical models of the domus and megalopolis can be recognised. The polarity of Heidegger's domus and Lyotard’s megalopolis in Leach’ article is investigated through a critical reading of their seminal works. Heidegger’s theories emphasise the importance of situatedness and rootedness in place, translated by architectural theorists into a call for a regionalist architecture. Lyotard criticises regionalism for its ill-fitting homogenised narrative noting that the traditional domus cannot exist within the current condition of the pluralistic megalopolis. The two theoretical models are elaborated acknowledging positive as well as negative consequences for both models. The megalopolis provides an individuality and anonymity but also generates fragmentation and homelessness. The domus constructs a belonging to regional identity for its own, but consequently an exclusion of the ‘other’. In the precedent of Quinta Monroy a prefabricated concrete core open for growth and change is provided, exhibiting the qualities of the megalopolis. Through individual additions facilitated by the incremental building approach, a domus-like situated identification is achieved. Immanent qualities of both domus and megalopolis are recognised within the project, concluding in the megalopolis has now stifled the domus, and has ‘gnawed away’ at the domus and its on a deconstruction of the polarity brought forth by Neil Leach.




domus situatedness regional identity community traditional homestead homogenious narrative exclusive


megalopolis placelessness internationality anonymity modern un-homely fragmented narratives uninclusive

cosmopolis placelessness internationality flexibility post-modern open fluidity pluralistic narratives inclusive

theorectical models as defined by Neil Leach in “the Dark Side of the Domus�

the regional domus








the modern metropolis

situation in theoretical discourse

Heidegger’s domus according to Leach

a rooted identification through community excluding the other

Lyotard’s megalopolis according to Leach

the anonymous and homeless but tollerant reality of todays city

the proposed cosmopolis according to Leach


a pluralistic, open society, free from the exclusions of community

Quinta Monroy by Elemental

an individual narrative

a collective narrative

an anonymous narative

the frame of thought applied to Quinta Monroy

individuality, community and tolerance on different urban scales

concluding on a model of ambiguous complexity of identity on different urban scales

Aravena, A. (2011). "Elemental: A Do Tank." Architectural Design 81(3): 32-37. Aravena, A. and A. Iacobelli (2012). Elemental: Incremental Housing and Participatory Design Manual, Hatje Cantz Verlag GmbH & Company KG. Heidegger, M. (2001). Building Dwelling Thinking. Poetry, Language, Thought, HarperCollins. Hernรกndez, F. (2009). Designing for Poverty. Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary Architecture in Latin America. R. Stein. Berlin, De Gruyter: 58-75. Leach, N. (1998). "the Dark Side of the Domus." The Journal of Architecture 3(1): 31-42. Leach, N. (2005). Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, Taylor & Francis. Malpas, J. (2006). Heidegger's Topology: Being, Place, World, MIT Press. Sharr, A. (2007). Heidegger for Architects, Taylor & Francis.


Urban Scales of Identity and Anonymity (draft)  

a discussion on the models of domus, metropolis and cosmopolis through analysis of the Quinta Monroy project by Elemental

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