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Unbuilding Neue Heimat West

A multimedia and theoretical examination of hegemonic space

by Cecilia Trotz & Paul Paptistella

Abstract: ‘Unbuilding Neue Heimat West’ is an examination of a region like ‘Zwischenstadt’ [1], an in-between city-like settlement area. The Neue Heimat West, located in the south of Linz (Austria), serves as an exemplary area of investigation. Based on our observations in this rural as well as urban district, we introduce the term hegemonic space. These are spaces,

which prescribe user behavior, and are inflexible in their function, but are taken as given,

almost ‘natural’. The aim was to identify these spaces (the private room, the inner house, the

outer house, the plot, the street, the shopping center, working spaces) and release them

from their rigidity. For this purpose, we developed the method of ‘Unbuilding’, which leads to

a questioning and subsequent confrontation with the built ordinariness.

00_QR-code_Unbuilding Neue Heimat West Video.jpg

[Image 1]

(1) Red: living

(2) Green: primary sector / The primary sector usually supplies the raw materials for a product.

(3) Blue: secondary sector / The secondary sector comprises the manufacturing industry of an economy, i.e. the sector responsible for processing raw materials.

(4) Purple: tertiary sector /

The tertiary sector comprises all services provided by independent companies or by the state and other public institutions.

(5) Yellow: public and social


Image by the authors (2022).


Notes on living in Neue Heimat West

Room. Staying in the same room every day. Being

comfortable. Being bored. Going outside!

Detached house. Detached houses.

Grey apartment towers. Construction site noise.

Demolition. New construction. Birds chirping.

Few people on the street. Many cars on the street.

Parking cars. Driving cars.

A park without people. But lots of chirping birds.

Vacant office.

Faith. A place to believe in.

Demolition. New building.

Demolition of the old factory. Quickly build a new one.

Quickly build a lot. Quickly live a lot.

Walking with shopping trolleys. Greeting people.

School is over. The camera is on. It’s raining.

Good mood.

Empty playground. No playing allowed.

The underground car park is being cleaned.

Cars need clean parking spaces.

A terrace or front garden is a good storage space.

Small grocery shop. Drive there and drive away.

The Jausenmacher. [2]

The bell rings. Signal. Quick break.

At the shopping center. Waiting for the bus.

Cars driving by. Waiting for the bus.

Shopping City! Welcome!

Pushing a shopping trolley.

Driving the car to go shopping.

Driving the shopping around.

Driving a lot.


Reception. Waiting.

These are notes about daily life, but also and especially about certain spaces. Spaces that prescribe a certain user behavior. One could call them hegemonic spaces. In these inflexibility in function is often perceived as something given or almost as “natural”. In ‘Unbuilding Neue Heimat West’, we investigated a rural as well as urban district serving

as an exemplary area of examination. The aim was to identify hegemonic spaces (the private room, the inner house, the outer house, the plot, the street, the shopping center, working spaces) and to release them from their rigidity. For this purpose,

we developed the method of ‘Unbuilding’.



The term Unbuilding is used to define a form of dismantling, that implies more than just the physical tearing down of a built structure. It is about not taking the daily surroundings as something given. The coherent forms of organization of the manifested space are to be questioned. By dismantling their structures, they are dissolved, supplemented, subtracted, and reassembled.  It is thus a matter of Unbuilding the construct of a hegemonic spatial order concerning the spaces that have become normal to society. A newly emerging illegibility of space is our starting point for a plural understanding of space. 



‘Neue Heimat West’ is a prototypically staked-out area of research in Linz, Austria. This imaginary demarcation is based on our observations at the southwestern end of the city. District boundaries have often been redrawn in this area. The main roads - ‘Siemensstrasse’, ‘Neubauzeile’ and ‘Dallingerstrasse’ - hint at past divisions. Thus, the former districts ‘Wegscheid’, ‘Schörgenhub’, and ‘Neue Heimat’ are still legible today. While the East of the newly merged district ‘Neue Heimat’ manages to keep up the impression of well-structured architecture, the West seems to lose itself in diffusivity. 


In an area of around 17km2 private rooms, houses, plots, streets, and working spaces are spread out randomly. The habitat of around 6,500 residents turns into a context-free space, where hegemonic spatial systems are becoming apparent.




Space as a perceived entity, confined either by the built or simply by our perception, tends to be defined by the way it is used. Before being used, space is nothing but space, existing based on its materiality and its spatiality. If space however experiences a use through us, it becomes tangible and forms a character that is collectively agreed upon. Our user behavior tends to be accompanied by rules on how we must act in certain spaces. On the one hand, there are formal rules that can be enforced by a judicial system. The informal rules, on the other hand, emerge from a culturally shaped, majority-accepted consensus. Only through these rules, which officially are probably none, but rather an idea of how the space should be, does a hierarchy inherent in the space occur. Through the production of a common idea of spatial use, through the imitation and pursuit of a cultural projection, our spaces become hegemonic [5] spaces. Influential figures in our society dictate in which way certain spaces are to be used.


The hegemon of course tries to preserve his authority. He wants to have a cultural, political as well as economic order used and defended for his interests. Therefore, the use of space as a natural act, which is neither wrong nor right, is institutionalized in the form of powers of disposition (property). As a result, access to certain spaces is

restricted, while in more collective spaces the use itself remains bound to a given order.


Our hegemonic understanding of space contrasts with that of the mendicant Franciscans. [6] They distinguish precisely between the actus utendi (the act of using) and the ius utendi (the right of use). Their fundamental rejection of the right of use was accompanied by the rejection of property and its possibility to exploit others. Therefore, use is not understood as a right of disposal, but as an act of sharing. This idea of equal sharing is legitimized by the radical idea of the Franciscans to live outside the law. In the spatial context, this idea of living together results in a space without rules, a space of anarchy. Such a space without guidelines would immediately provoke the struggle to fill empty signifiers of space. This leads us to the realization that hegemony itself is always reproduced. Even if it only changes sides, it remains.

In this dilemma, it becomes obvious that the dissolution of hegemonic spaces is not only not possible, but also not desirable. Rather, our idea is to find a position within the existing structure that deconstructs it and produces an “illegibility” of space. Through the resulting irritation in space, a questioning of the everyday environment is to be caused, which makes plural forms of use of space possible and thus invites participation: the highest form of living together.




Our private, a retreat, usually describes an environment that allows us to find ourselves, to rest, to sleep, as well as the given freedom to do “nothing”. The expansion of this space through hyperconnectivity, into an endless digital space, dismantles the dream of retreat. In a perpetually connected society, we can no longer be alone. The uprooting from the physical space of retreat leads to a widespread proliferation of the same. The result is radical anonymity in the real world. [7] 


The architectural theorist Pier Vittorio Aureli describes the furnishings of Hannes Meyer’s Co-op interior as so reduced, so inconspicuous, that their anonymity implies commodities. This is comparable to a monk’s cell, in which the absence of property reflects the occupants’ awareness of the possibility of happiness. [8] It is precisely this detachment from the previous understanding of private property that reveals a new openness to unknown forms of human community beyond the previously hegemonically defined framework. Through its purely material, although reduced, spatial configuration, the Co-op interior unfolds a liberation from life’s perpetual burdens of ownership.


In the context of hyperconnectivity, digital space expands the physical into transitory, ever-reassembling, diverse spatial configurations. Regardless of the articulation of the existing physical space fragments, the new digital space fragments themselves become semi-public constructions. The consequence of the new spatial order is not only an enormously anonymized public space but also a return to ownership as an alternative way of still being able to experience publicness. 


Since the methodology of spatial configuration no longer has the power to detach us, it is up to the residents themselves to free themselves from the classical principles of living. If we would no longer bind ourselves to rooms, apartments, houses, and property, we would have the chance to take a new collective perspective on our living regularly. Here, the act of moving houses becomes a perpetual detachment.



The plot - read as space - holds a certain ambivalence. On the one hand, it could be understood as a kind of fictional space. A place that has no character traits make it stand out as independent, it is defined purely by the drawing of boundaries by human hands. The plot is not a real enclosed space, it is a theoretically designated one. Fences, walls, and ditches are created to make this place legible as such. While these demarcations may be topographical as well as arbitrary, that is, pragmatical as well as projected, the exclusions arising therefore are nevertheless hard realities. Property, especially land ownership, is fundamental to our understanding of the world, our interaction with our environment, and our interaction with each other.  


Today we talk about land ownership as if it were an almost “natural” phenomenon. However, the notion of land as a capital asset - as property - is a Western one. At the end of the 17th century, the English philosopher John Locke coined today’s concept of property. [9] According to Locke, the person who appropriates nature through labor becomes the owner through this process. This assumes that the body is the property of the person, just as the fruits of the work performed with one’s own body become



The consequence of Locke’s legitimization of property was a change of system without any real change. Personal dependencies in feudalism became material dependencies in capitalism. Labor became a commodity, as did land, and only those who invested in other people’s land and labor became rich. From the idea that property should be the result of labor derives the assumption, accepted by the majority today, that man becomes active only when the results of his activity become his own. In this conception, property is thus always related to productivity. Private property as an incentive for a productive society. 


In the capitalist economic system, property is understood as a reward. This understanding is hegemonic since large parts of society agree that the way to accumulate wealth is through work. Private property, however, can never be understood only as a reward for work done. Property is certainly not only related to productivity but also always linked to power. 

Since ownership ultimately involves one’s power of disposal, the mere “possession of something” creates a position of power. Only what I own I can damage without consequences. Common property, on the other hand, is always in a social and moral context.


The land as private property is accepted, little questioned, and thus constitutes a hegemonic space that tells a long story of human impact, appropriation, and ultimately profit exploitation of our environment. 


we share the earth  

we split our earth 

we divide this earth 


Thus, to dismantle the land as a hegemonic space requires a changed way of looking at it. If we would not consider it as property, but rather as caretaking, use, or even cultivation, this would possibly influence our handling of it. A piece of land would no longer be defined by being subject to our power of disposal to achieve maximum profit. A piece of land that may very well be inhabited, used, and claimed by private individuals would henceforth not be detached from the overall context and declared private property. This understanding of land as a sphere of competence would probably be closer to Locke’s appropriation of nature than today’s interpretation of property as capital, as justification for exploitation, and for exclusion.

The street is narrowed by the curbstone.

The curbstone is narrowed by the dandelion.

The dandelion is narrowed by the grass verge.

The grass verge is narrowed by the chestnut tree.

The chestnut tree is narrowed by a pedestrian walkway.

The pedestrian walkway is narrowed by a fence.

The fence is narrowed between the pedestrian walkway and the lawn.

The lawn, the boundary of the street. Or the street, the boundary of the lawn. What else is there but the street? 


It never ends and never begins. The street guides us, literally straight ahead, left, left again, and then right. But not everyone has the same right to the road. The heavier my weight, the more of it I have. Some people shout out loud: Get rid of the street!


But if the street is gone, then something else is there, a different structure, a different environment, a different hegemony of space. The hegemony itself is reproduced, if it only changes sides, it remains in the end. Accordingly, abolition appears as a kind of authoritarian alternative. The philosopher Jacques Derrida [10] also recognizes this in his deconstructivist way of thinking. For him, it is rather a matter of finding a position within the existing structure away from the dualities - at the edge of the structure. 

Accordingly, the legible authoritarian space of the street must be rendered unrecognizable. By distributing variously more permeable walls, this space can be limited, cut up, and taken back. The structure, which is no longer recognizable, is not removed from its function, but from its effect.

If one defines centers as highly frequented places with a high density of movement, characterized by a coming and going, the shopping center in the research area forms the center or a pseudo-center.  


The shopping center as a pseudo-center imitates the city center. Through a multitude of shopping opportunities, services, and leisure activities, an idea of urbanity is projected that mimics complexity, but degenerates into monofunctional consumerism. The reduction of such a central place to a shopping world that guides the user’s behavior, surrounded by a separating glacis of parking spaces, decreases the informal quality of stay. [11] The urban experience is limited to a drive to the parking lot, from which one enters an artificial world that no longer communicates with its surroundings. Thus, it can stand contextless in space and enable a constant repetition of itself in different places.


Assuming however that the center as a place can never be a mass product but is always in a reciprocal relationship with its surroundings, the shopping center reads as a pseudo-center. It dictates every step from the shopping cart to the checkout and thus forms a hegemonic space. Such a pseudo-center exists in parallel and is not able to strengthen real places in their urbanité.


The Maximarkt (the biggest mall in ‘Neue Heimat West’) is being dismantled; dismantled in the sense of lifting it out of its monofunctional rigidity, freeing it from being a non-place. [12]




Work in the philosophical sense includes all consciously performed activities in dependence on nature and cultural need for a purpose that is superordinate to the execution of the work action and is pursued in a goal-oriented manner. This contrasts with the widespread understanding of work in economics, which regards work exclusively as work when human activity is carried out to generate income. In a comparison of both definitions, it can be seen, that our everyday conception of work in theory and practice is not thought of holistically. [13] The incomplete understanding of the economic and cultural concept of work manifests itself not only on the immaterial relational level but also on a material, spatial one. Thus, our world in which we understand work as an activity that can be performed at any time, from anywhere, paid as well as unpaid, becomes a world in which we also perceive the space surrounding us as a culturally occupied and thus universally valid workspace. The actual multiplicity of work, which goes beyond the hegemonic idea of the national economy, makes our environment a workspace.

The room becomes the workroom of the housework. 

The first house becomes the workspace of the educational work. 

The plot of land becomes the workspace of gardening. 

The street becomes the way to the workspace. 

The second house becomes the workspace of wage and capital work. 

The street becomes the way to the workspace. 

The third house becomes the workspace of supply work. 

The street becomes the way to the workspace. 

The next house becomes a workspace. 


As soon as we understand our environment as a workspace, it shows us that not only the material, the actual place reflects our culture, but also our way of life itself, our immaterial being, manifests itself in space. [14]  For us, this means that our capitalist understanding of work, the dependence of our survival on work, forms the hegemonic space that surrounds us. A hegemonic space that is as dependent on labor as we humans are. However, a spatial dissolution of the dependency relationship will only be possible if we rethink our understanding of work and ask ourselves without reservations: How do we want to live together?

[1] Sieverts (2000).


[2] “Die Jausenmacher” is a

brand name of Linz-based

mobile food trucks, which

translates into “The snack



[4] Neubert (2001).


[5] Laclau and Mouffe (2020).

[6] Aureli (2015).

01_Unbuilding Neue Heimat West Map.jpg

[3] Wigley (2018).

[7] Wigley (2016).

[8] Aureli (2015).

[Image 2]  

(1) moving 1

(2) moving 2

Image by the authors (2022).

[9] Nuss (2021).

[11] Sieverts (2000).

[Image 3 - below] dividing - subdividing - dividing up.

Image by the authors

[Image 4 - right] 

Image by the authors (2022).

All Images

[12] Augé (1995).

[14] Arendt (1960). 

[Image 5] The image of the wall as an „unbuilding“ tool may seem paradoxical, but we assume that by demarcating space, new space is created that is not yet hegemonically occupied and thus enables a variety of uses.


Image by the authors (2022).

[13] Nuss (2019).

[10] Wegener (2020). 

[Image 6] 

Image by the authors (2022).


Arendt, Hannah: Vita activa oder Vom tätigen Leben (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1960).


Augé, Marc: non-places: an introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (London; New York: Verso, 1995).


Aureli, Pierre Vittorio ‘A Room Without Ownership’, in Hannes Meyer: Co-op Interieur (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2015).


Laclau, Ernesto and Mouffe, Chantal: Hegemonie und radikale Demokratie: Zur Dekonstruktion des Marxismus (Vienna: Passagen-Verlag, 2020).


Neubert, Harald, Antonio Gramsci: Hegemonie, Zivilgesellschaft, Partei: Eine Einführung (Hamburg: Vsa, 2001).


Nuss, Sabine: Keine Enteignung ist auch keine Lösung: Die große Wiederaneignung und das vergiftete Versprechen des Privateigentums (Berlin: Dietz Berlin, 2019).


Nuss, Sabine: Das Privateigentum: Überlegungen im Kontext der sozial-ökologischen Krise (Wien: Club of Vienna, 2021).


Sieverts, Thomas: Zwischenstadt: Zwischen Ort und Welt, Raum und Zeit, Stadt und Land (Berlin: Birkhäuser, 2000).


Wegener, Gerrit: Philosophisches Entwerfen: Jaques Derrida und die Architektur (Berlin: DOM-Publishers, 2020).


Wigley, Mark ‘Extreme Hospitality’, in Laura Stamps, Willemijn Stokvis, Mark Wigley, Pascal Gielen and Trudy van der Horst (ed.), Constant - New Babylon : to us, liberty (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2016).


Wigley, Mark, Cutting Matta-Clark: The Anarchitecture Investigation (Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2018).

Cecilia Trotz explores spatial matters using various approaches such as writing and drawing. She is currently based in Linz, Austria where she studies Architecture at the University of Art and Design.


BArch, University of Arts Linz, Linz 2023



Paul Paptistella engages with spatial-theoretical concepts and issues. He is currently based in Vienna and studies architecture, as well as media, culture, and art theory at the University of Arts Linz.


BArch, University of Arts Linz, Linz 2023


Published in Issue 2024

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