2.1. From Modernism to Postmodernism: a Single Label or Not?
Looking at the world from the perspective of postmodernism allows people to have more insight into the nature of the real world [1
]. This statement can be better understood by looking at the differences between modernist and postmodernist urban planning, which can be summarized in two major points. First, modernist urban planning reflects the values of the developers. It tries to find the standard method for unifying management issues on the macro national or regional scale. By contrast, postmodernist urban planning focuses more on the micropolitical relations in the daily lives of individuals and holds that the differences are more valuable [3
]. From the viewpoint of postmodernism, local rules should be constructed based on the agreement among different participants. In this way, heterogeneous, diverse, and enduring new ideas can be supported [4
]. Second, modernist urban planning insists that there should be a rational, universal and definitive means of renewing urban spaces. However, postmodernist urban planning pays closer attention to the emergent, fragmented and decentered nature of daily life, which plays an important role in the production of urban spaces [5
]. Postmodernism also stresses the importance of the aestheticism of urban history [6
]. Modernist urban planning and postmodernist urban planning provide us with an analytical perspective on the motivation behind the labeling of historical areas.
Modernist urban planning has a positive incentive for labeling a historical area with a single image, even it is questioned by postmodernist urban planning. Zoning is a basic strategy of modernist urban planning which emphasizes the essential function of a place in the city. One of the approaches used to protect a historical area is to label it with a single image according to its basic function within the city [7
]. This approach is useful for the following reasons. First, a single image of a historical area can rapidly improve tourists’ appreciation of a historical area [8
]. Camprubi investigated tourists’ images of Perpignan in France. The results showed that people had multiple images of Perpignan. Camprubi suggested limiting these fragment images. He believed that giving a unified image to a place has a positive impact on the local development [9
]. Day and Font pointed out that the image orientation of a tourist destination was one of the core activities for tourism management organizations at regional, national and global scales. Per their opinion, only by establishing the image of a place that is most attractive to the target group can these organizations effectively manage the tourist destinations [10
]. Second, the label of a historical area may change when people think of it at different spatial scales but may not change at a single scale. For example, Zhou and Zhang found that the image of Nanluoguxiang (NLGX), a historical area in Beijing, changed when urban planners thought of it as within Beijing or within China. At different scales, NLGX played different roles. It is a key market in Old Beijing and the north end of the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal (The Grand Canal). It is thus necessary to label a historical area according to its context [12
]. Third, a clear image of a historical area can promote people’s understanding and recognition of its historical and cultural value. One project even applied GIS (Geographic Information System) as a tool to give the “correct” and “clear” image of a historical city block. The researchers stated that the use of basic information and 3D modeling data could provide an accurate and comprehensive informational basis for preservation zoning, and support urban planners and designers seeking to understand the historical city blocks [13
]. Based on these three reasons, labeling a historical area according to its basic function can work in historical planning. However, this modernist approach also limits people’s imagination and creative thinking.
Postmodernist urban planning also has a positive point of view when it emphasizes the multiple images and the fluid images of a historical area in people’s minds. First, postmodernism accepts the diverse images of a historical area, which can be different both among and inside diverse groups. Karlström held the opinion that different objectives of heritage preservation lead to the diversity of images for a historical area. Karlström indicated that there are at least three kinds of objectives: strengthening the collective identity, enhancing the historical understanding of a locale, and retaining social memory [14
]. Also, the images of a historical area are different even within a group of people with the same demographic characteristics. Different living experiences can bring out different images. For example, Schmickle found that the residents of Fullerton (California) had different images of the historic district in the city. Some perceived it as a comfortable home or a livable community, whereas others perceived as a prosperous business district. Clearly it is difficult to reflect these perspectives with only single image [15
]. Zhou pointed out that two extremes should be avoided in the preservation of a place’s memory. One extreme is to ignore individual memories and only retain the landscapes that are attached to the collective memory. The other extreme is to present the historical memory of specific individuals. However, she did not present how to balance both the collective and individual memories [16
]. Second, postmodernism accepts the fluid images of a historical area according to Urry’s concept of “gaze” [17
]. He emphasized that the visual process is not merely a simple and straightforward one [18
]. Similarity, Larsen and Urry pointed out that gazing is not a simple visualization of the real world as it was previously known, but rather is primarily constructed based on visual and linguistic methods. Using the perspective of chorology to criticize the single gaze, the landscape is more focused on a visual representation of individual subjectivity. During the process of continually gazing at historical areas, the image one holds undergoes constant changes [19
]. Third, postmodernism admires the creativity of human thinking. For example, Cosgrove proposed that gazing is a way of looking at the world. Landscape is a combination of reality and imagination. He opposed separating the “imaginary picture” from “objective reality”, separating “culture” from “nature”, and other similar binary arguments [20
]. Wylie pointed out that the landscape is shaped in the human mind and in our imagination. Appreciation of the landscape occurs when an individual gaze at an objective phenomenon in the outside world through the lens of a unique culture [22
]. David and Thomas held the opinion that the process of landscape understanding is social and cultural, which will be affected by the subjectivities of different people [23
]. These three points led us to consider abandoning the labeling of historical areas.
2.2. Why Use Soja’s Trialectics of Spatiality?
After learning about the advantages of modernist urban planning and postmodernist urban planning in labeling historical areas, there is still a need to understand the bridge that connects these two urban planning perspectives. Soja’s trialectics of spatiality provides the answer. Soja believed that postmodernist epistemology is more flexible and can be used to overcome the stereotypes of modernist epistemology [24
]. Based on postmodernist epistemology, his trialectics of spatiality offers a way to determine the dynamics of the formative process of different images. Different ways of life in different regions result in a mixture of various perceptions for places and contradictory attitudes toward policy making [26
Soja’s trialectics of spatiality is based on Henri Lefebvre’s description of three kinds of space [28
]. Soja outlined what he called the Firstspace epistemology, the Secondspace epistemology and the Thirdspace epistemology, which supported the establishment of a research framework for this investigation (see Figure 1
). “Firstspace epistemology” focuses on analyzing and interpreting the text of physical objects in perceived space [30
]. Firstspace epistemology holds that spatial practice and material geographies are the result of history and sociality. “Secondspace epistemology” focuses on obtaining ideas from the conceived space and projecting them onto the world of experience. This type of epistemology breeds a wide range of philosophical hegemonies and utopian thinking. “Thirdspace epistemology” focuses on making endless sympathetic deconstructions and heuristic reconstructions of perceived space and conceived space by injecting new possibilities into the “lived space”. In this way, the heterotopia will spiral and result in an infinite approach to the state of utopia. In Thirdspace epistemology, real space has both subjectivity and objectivity, abstraction and concretization, reality and imagination, known and unknown, repetition and difference, construction and deconstruction, thought and body, consciousness and unconsciousness, singularity and diversity, daily life and endless history [31
]. Soja found that the Firstspace and Secondspace epistemologies are rigid and closed. The structure does not concentrate on the real spatial awareness or on an appropriate practical guideline [31
]. Soja suggested that spatialization can be understood better with the guidance of the Thirdspace epistemology. This process of spatialization is a critical and continuously expanding journey [33
]. Furthermore, Soja pointed out the morality concealed in the Thirdspace [31
]. In this study, we are seeking the starting point of our thinking according to this epistemological framework to explain the multiple images and fluid images of a historical area. Meanwhile, we also attempt to find the morality in the process of spatialization.
2.3. The Research Application of the Trialectics of Spatiality
Many scholars have noted that Soja’s trialectics of spatiality provides a new postmodernist angle for describing how people perceive, conceive, and reconstruct a place [34
]. Soja’s trialectics emphasizes thinking differently about the meaning and significance of space [36
]. It instructs us to pay more attention to the experiential gap between real and imagined space [38
]. His trialectics of spatiality has also been used to construct different types of spatial research [40
]. These studies can be roughly divided into two categories.
The first category concerns different senses of place among various groups and among the individuals within a group. The trialectics of spatiality is used to study this multi-type space. Using this approach some scholars have demonstrated that the real space is a multiple convergence of different subjects. Hooks introduced trialectics into the creative postmodernist theory for the politics of different cultures. Using the story of the railroad and black aesthetics, Hooks showed that due to the structure of daily life, blacks had a sense of overall consciousness, which included the angles of blacks and whites. From the standpoint of “others”, everyone cannot only discover the beauty of the edge space, but also find the courage to make fiercely debate and struggle in space. By this means, a variety of new and radical things converged [42
]. Using Soja’s trialectics of spatiality, Hejnal conducted research in the “Hilton” space (the emic name of the object inhabited by homeless people in a mid-sized Czech city). Hejnal divided research spaces into three categories: Firstspace is the object space which is described as historical and physical; Secondspace is the representation space of the main subjects, in which politicians, government police, the local media and the public is included; Thirdspace is the heterogeneous “Hilton” from the angle of the main subjects. The researchers focused on the differences and connections between these three spaces. The research of “Hilton” space showed that there were many contradictions between these three spaces. The main subjects’ passive description and their strong social relations and internal social practices inside made the “Hilton” space seem like a contradictory and absurd platform, where contradictions exist between the filthy external environment and the clean status inside a building, with different attitudes towards dogs, odor, ecology, health, etc. Due to the residents’ negative views of the homeless, the routine inspection of the “Hilton” by the police had become legal. On the one hand, the public wished to solve the problems, but on the other hand, they also rejected the feasible solutions. From the study of Hejnal, the three spaces seemed to oppose each other and correspond to different subjects; in fact they closely intertwine. Soja’s trialectics of spatiality stresses that spatialization is in a continuous and spiraling process [44
]. Murrani used Soja’s trialectics of spatiality to emphasize that there is always a new subjective power entering the urban space of Baghdad, which also influences the urban spatial pattern as well. American troops were involved in the spatial understanding of Baghdad with the locals on Twitter. Thus, the urban space of Baghdad was continuously being constructed and deconstructed [45
]. Refstie and Brun applied the trialectics of spatiality to explore the different participations of different agents (including the government, international organizations and the community residents) in urban planning. The participation of different groups makes it possible to fulfill the multiple requirements from various subjects for urban planning [46
]. In addition, some scholars have analyzed the perceptions and practices of subjects under the same environmental protection through the trialectics of spatiality. Anderson introduced the trialectics of spatiality into the exploration of the environmentally directed action. He believed that the trialectics of spatiality could result in the researchers forming the most realistic recognition of their political practice. Anderson considered the Firstspace to be the empirical and measurable space (activist space), whereas the Secondspace was the cognitive and reasonable space (academic space), and the Thirdspace was a lived space in which the emotional activism and the rational academics were joined together. By means of the trialectics of spatiality, Anderson removed the scholar’s hat, forming the same target as the environmental protection activists in some situations, and obtaining the occasional and one-time comments from different environmental activists in their group. Also, Anderson found that the trialectics of spatiality can be used to resolve the contradictions between scholars and activists, the debates among different scholars held various epistemologies and methodologies, and even the contradictions of the scholars themselves at different periods in their career. From the standpoint of the trialectics of spatiality, Anderson indicated that diversity is the nature of reality. No matter how uncomfortable the situation is when individuals suffer the impact of the practices of others, he or she should incorporate this kind of diversity. Anderson’s study echoed the diversity and fluidity inherent in the trialectics of spatiality [47
]. Munjee (2014) tried to appreciate the aesthetics of site-specific dance using the model of trialectics of spatiality. Munjee classified different elements of site-specific dance into perceived, conceived, and lived space, based on the audience realizing the values of these elements in performance. The perceived space included the natural and human parameters of physical space. The conceived space stressed that the diverse identities and subjective viewpoints of locals would affect their understanding of the site-specific dance in the physical space. The lived space concentrated on the role body practices played in the production of space, which contained not only the daily movement but also the abstract performance. Based on this, Munjee concluded that Soja’s trialectics of spatiality cannot only improve the diversity of aesthetic understanding among different students, but also form the multiple interpretations holding for a public space [48
The second category of research concerns the changes in an individual’s sense of place. Some scholars have concluded that spatial practice and conception are not static when using the trialectics of spatiality. Swenson applied the trialectics of spatiality to analyze the perception space, conception space, and real space of a local commemorative building. He found that there were only conservative political forces for the perception and conception of the building, and that only the Thirdspace could help to break through this line of thinking. The purpose of every inspection and renovation for local monuments was to construct the individual personality of a special historical period. In this process, community and power played an innovative role. The trialectics of spatiality provides epistemological and methodological guidelines for many fields, including geography, sociology, archeology, and environmental protection [49
]. However, there are relatively few cases have been applied to urban planning. Based on this point, Detamour believed that the subjects who are in the edge space could form a brand new and more inclusive understanding of the urban space. This study paid close attention to the different kinds of text, including photographs, drawings, and literature to discover the subjects’ comprehensions of the heterogeneous urban space. Different subjects were always in the process of perceiving and conceiving their living space. Under the gaze of these art texts, Detamour noted that different individuals were always in the process of the spatial movement. The individuals’ bodies occupy the space, and this occupied space is important since both interact with each other and constantly create a new space. The trialectics of spatiality can capture the Thirdspace of the artistic creators when they jump out of a simple objective space and a subjective space. Detamour’s study recognized the heterogeneous nature of a space, but that space should not exclude the coexistence of the different individuals. Based on this premise, this study suggested that urban planning should recognize the relationships between different regions rather than separating them. The research deconstructed and evaluated the perception and cognition of the subjects, and advanced some suggestions for the design of an inclusive urban space [50
]. Using Soja’s trialectics of spatiality as a reference, Prasetyo considered the sidewalk in an urban space in a different way. From the perspective of Thirdspace, he argued that the sidewalk was not just a physical space on which people move, but also a tool to promote the social and cultural network. The sidewalk was a playroom in which citizens could participate in political and cultural activities and exchanges. Therefore, the trialectics of spatiality can inject new vigor and fluidity into the understanding of urban space, thus liberating the urban space from obstacles and restrictions [51
]. Teelucksingh and Masuda used the trialectics of spatiality to analyze the environment perception and cognition of different spatial individuals in a community. At the beginning of the investigation, the respondents just had a simple physical perception of the others’ community. However, through the investigation, respondents formed their own cognition. Finally, they were able to integrate the perception and cognition into their true stories and put forward their own advice on environmental issues. This process awakened the consciousness of the individual to their urban rights [52
]. However, their study emphasized the other’s impact on the conscious awakening of the individuals inside the space, raising their self-consciousness was ignored as the classification of “others” was too simple.
In our case study, we also use the trialectics of spatiality to discuss the diverse images of people and the image changes of an individual. However, our major aim is to determine the analytical procedure for the trialectics of spatiality, which was not demonstrated clearly in the above case studies.
2.4. Debates Concerning Soja’s Trialectics of Spatiality
There are also some risks that should be realized when using the trialectics of spatiality. The critique of Soja’s trialectics of spatiality can be divided into two categories: the theoretical criticisms and the practical criticisms. The theoretical criticisms include the followings: First, some scholars have questioned the logical relationship between the three spaces. Merrifield suspected that perceived space which is full of spatial practices cannot be directly equivalent to Firstspace. He believed that spatial practice is the key to combining the conceived space and lived spaces [53
]. Second, some scholars have also questioned the verification process of Soja’s trialectics of spatiality. Crang expressed some uncertainty as to whether Soja’s rethinking of spatiality results from the trialectics circle, or whether the trialectics circle is the result of Soja’s rethinking [54
]. Schreiner argued that spatial theories (such as Soja’s concept of Thirdspace) are not the reflection of the real space, but should be assessed via a historical analysis. However, this kind of spatial concept also provides a more flexible and comprehensive way to look at the world [55
]. The practical criticisms include the following: Some scholars have argued that Soja’s case studies were insufficient for any theoretical explanation. Merrifield regarded Soja’s case studies for the trialectics of spatiality as being too redundant to clarify his theory. He noted that Soja did not explain how to apply the theory of trialectics of space into real world practice [53
]. Moss felt perplexed about the applicability of the trialectics of spatiality because of its narrow use in both theoretical and practical terms. However, even though the research had limited citations and exaggerated expressions, Moss agreed that the trialectics of spatiality is a way to improve our epistemological composition of space [56
]. Therefore, our article responds to these scholars’ criticisms of the trialectics of spatiality by defining the three kinds of space, and by explaining the circle they comprise in the trialectics of spatiality.
The literature mentioned above does provide us with some illumination. This research not only paid close attention to improvements in spatial understanding when people changed their mental images of DJMX, but also aimed to determine an analytical procedure for Soja’s trialectics of spatiality, a feature which is still lacking in the relevant research.