The Otherness of Money Spaces:
Versions of a Casino

Financially speaking, when you mix black and white together, you get green. Black and white refers to polarities; such as private and public, or inside and outside. Green means money.  This abstract area of threshold is extrapolated into physical experience; both on an urban and architectural level. This discussion seeks to argue, using the architectural programme of the casino and its variations (shopping mall, trade fair, bank, and stock trading floor) as evidence, that money thresholds either create or are aggrandised by certain spatial qualities. Furthermore, due to the nature of this threshold or money border, the space enclosed within it may be argued to attract to it a sort of otherness, since it grows isolated from the rest of the spatial context in which it sits. In an effort to unpack the qualities and tools that this ‘other’, part-private-part-public space is afforded due to its insulated nature; its spatial existence is unpacked through Michel Foucault’s six principles for heterotopias (2008:18). This effectively puts forward the argument that transactional spaces, such as banks, shopping centres and casinos, are heterotopic.

Although Michael Sorkin (1992:xi) indicates that many examples of capitalist constructs such as the shopping mall, festival, market, casino and new suburbs; ‘fit the bill’ of Marcuse’s use of the term ‘utopia’, a “determinate socio-historical negation of what exists” (Marcuse 1970:69), it is more useful to view its existence more specifically as a heterotopia, a space defined by Foucault as “represented, contested, inverted …outside of all spaces…and yet actually localizable” (Foucault 2008:19). Therefore, it is grounded in the present, and grounded in a particular special setting which is tied intrinsically to a contextual reality. Simmel’s depiction of currency in The Philosophy of Money (cited Frankel 1977: 4) echoes this theoretical perspective; since he ascribes money as microcosm of society. Simmel furthermore argues that money is a part of the individual, and is cultivated in the same way a person cultivates their own ‘spirit’, affording money to attract to itself an ability to communicate “spirit, forms, and thought.” (cited Frankel 1977: 4). Money as the side-car to the individual will be extrapolated upon further; perhaps additionally causal of the simultaneous detachment and connection of the financial institution to its physical setting. In this analysis, multiple ironies and contradictions of spatial exemplars are revealed, alluding again to the place and placelessness of the heterotopia: “Each place contains its opposite, that which is not place” (Malcomess & Kreutzfeldt 2013:12).

It is in these ironies or contradictions that a notion for a new type of architecture can be made, that presents itself as one thing but does the opposite. Its heterotopic qualities, and cognizance of threshold as active spatial tools become important in a search for a loophole, or recalibration, where capitalism is permitted to be beat with capitalism for a brief moment, as will be alluded to later.


Within his depiction of the first principle for a heterotopia, Foucault (2008:18) describes that all cultures in the world engender heterotopias. These include inherent heterotopias of crisis (sacred space in primitive humanity), and heterotopias of deviation. Baudrillard argues (1975, 1981) that the rising power of commodity (money) as self-referential sign, meaning is lost in the “simularcra” of exchange. Simmel, too, in the Metropolis and Mental Life, echoes that the overcommodifaction which money enables; sinks the modern man into a “blasé” disposition (cited Leach 1977:70). This anaesthetization could appear to adequately warrant the necessity of crisis or deviation space in a natural attempt to break from it. Mark Wagner in his Money is Material exhibition (The Avante/Garde Diaries: 2013) shows that money can be stripped down to its base, and this causes a crisis in its perception for meaning (see Figures 41 and 42).

> Crises: Political Crunch, Economic Crisis

The twentieth century has seen a multitude of economic crises as it scrambled to its feet after industrialisation of the preceding century, and at the cause of imminent political revolutions. Johannesburg, by example, experienced its first economic crisis in its mining beginnings. (Tomlinson et als eds 2003:4) As is demonstrated in the writings of Malcomess & Kreutzfeldt (2013:133), the economic disposition of Johannesburg was often likened to that of a ‘gamble’, where huge losses and huge gains were part of its history. In fact, the first crash of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was linked to the over-crediting of banks to fund tinkering in its land surface, which proved unbountiful (Malcomess and Kreutzfeldt 2013:132).

The 1970s again saw a boom; accompanied with a proliferation of leisure and finance architecture over the South African landscape. This piqued in the 1980s, until a massive crash hit (Chipkin 2008: 285). At the turn of the century, Africa had experienced a plume of previously tightly restrained access to cash, currency and commodities (Comaroff & Comaroff 2002:18, see figure 40). This has initiated eddying bubbles of neo-liberalist1 economy; both in the affluent domain of the elite and in its labour support in the informal economy. The 1990s saw a reconstruction of an over-credited economy; culminating at the 2008 credit crunch. Where as Hull and James (2012:8) depict, crisis revealed much ‘otherness’ and informality in the so called ‘formal economy’. Van Wyk (2012:27) shows that reaction to such monetary crisis is experienced in a movement toward a ‘spiritual’ or ‘sacred’, as depicted in Foucault’s requirement for heterotopias (2008:18). Shop-front churches dot the landscape, claiming to improve financial stability, as well as casinos and other gambling structures (Van Wyk 2012:27).

Therefore, to discuss of a sanctuary of refuge from crisis is to discuss, perhaps, of a sense of some sort of belief, myth, maybe even magic. In the case of magic, deviation from the norm, or reality is construed.

> Deviations: The Carnival

At the edge of the norm, one may begin to reject it: “Disenchantment flourishes when the outer limits are reached” (Soja 1992:104). A search for an escape is made: The idea of the carnival may assist in perceiving the irony that in the case of an attempted escape from an economic crisis, it is usually made in refuge of a space which appears to deviate, but is in fact another version of crisis. Mikhail Bakhtin (1984) describes the carnival as allowed only in a set time and place. It is ephemeral, yet touches reality at a specific point, quite similar to the heterotopia (see figure 43). In the spark of static between place and ephemeral escape, charge of the place, of reality, transfers to the carnival. The carnival, encouraging carnivalesque behaviour to its attendees (Dovey 1999:136) in its illusion, actually operates unexpectedly as a machine of economy: concealing to allow the most vulgar of exploitation. As Sorkin (1992:208) argues at the carnival of Disneyland, and circus, there exists more dominantly the “anticarnivalesque, as feasts of automization, celebrations of the existing order of things in the guise of escape from it”
Inherent in the post-modern person, then, perhaps one sees the return to the crisis of modernity: the escape of rationalisation actually by the increased use of rationalisation (machinery). By corollary, many of the proletariat have the right modes of grammar (returning to the analogy of money as a language) for effective economic communication; but need access to private spaces of economic power to have the code words to access such spaces. This code word could be re-scripted in the form of architecture, a physical framework which admits, protects and defends. To access it requires a certain amount of magic, to get in the space that only has doors that open from the inside. This code, if like language, could be the evolutionary product of the historical culture in which it sits.


Foucault describes (2008:18) that a heterotopia that exists in the course of history has the ability to mutate its function by its society. A regressive view into the past lives of the capitalist construct will be shown to more often than not show a progression in the quality of these spaces from more open-air city quotidian trade spaces, to increasingly obscured and protected types; tending toward rather a space of ‘otherness’ rather than ‘sameness’ to the rest of the city’s spaces. Three components of the rite of transaction shall be studied: that is exchange (market), retention (bank), and magical acquisition (casino):

> Regressing of the Shopping Mall

Although the first recorded exchange of commodity is shown by Williams (2010:1) to pre-date 3000 BCE, the story of the capitalist construct finds relevance in first observing the Greek agora – depicted by Kostoff (1991:60) as seated at the centre of the Athenian city in the 6th century BCE (see figure 45). Kostoff (1991:104,185) interestingly then pronounces the agora the “premier symbol of self-governance”. Inherently there exists in its concept a crisis: the central, public domain of exchange and politics; and the ‘self’, the autonomous decisiveness that comes from the inside and affects the outside. In addition, a marketplace also serves as an entry point of ‘otherness’ to enter a city. In the descriptions by Italo Calvino (1974:36) in the imaginings of Euphemia, a trading city of old, trading does not only involve buying and selling; but actually also an exchange of something sociological too; of tales of difference; of strangenesses; of one’s wife, one’s injuries or hidden treasures, for example.

Historically, the agora is reworked into a continuous entity in the stoa (see Figure 44), visible at one century BCE (Kostoff 1991:255). Seen is this are the beginnings of the continuous shop street frontage. The transition to the mall is attributed by theorists to various origins; including the arcade and world fair, as well as in the transition to department store. All these intermediate types display qualities of enclosure, as will be shown. Crawford (1992:17) depicts the relocation of many items off the street into one shop; a department store, with fixed prices in Paris 1850 - this also mobilising the replacement of consumer in place of market culture. This indicates a separation of trade space from the everyday city’s ‘public’ spaces. Kostoff (1991:251) shows that the word ‘mall’ was in fact taken from the lawn-game pall-mall, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries: a protected promenade was created away from the bustling European city streets, also retaining some political function (See Figure 46).

This linear separated space finds its transactionary counterpart within the introduction of urban arcade – Dovey (1992:124) describes Milan’s Galleria Vittorio (see figure 47) of 1867 as the prototype, showing new forms of access with privatized short-cuts: here architecture expresses the power to redirect economic activity off streets, and protect its patrons from the outdoor elements. In the case of Johannesburg, interestingly, the occurrence of arcades is cited in cause for the avoidance of mining dust, as in the example of the arcade on Market Street (Malcomess & Kreutzfeldt 2013:172, See Figure 48). But this sheltering is not only physical, but eventually psychological. Walter Benjamin recognizes arcades in 1930s as an interior dream world of seductive commodities, linked to flanêur and urban voyeurism (Dovey 1999:125). This is important as the arcade’s roof spans above a genesis of illusory powers of a separated capital space, where the imagination of people in it becomes colonised.

The World Fair under Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace seems to amalgamate Bakhtin’s carnival and the arcade; where the labour of humanity becomes the commodity, and the spectacle. Sorkin argues this is an origin point for Disneyland (another capitalist construct of dream-world), where all the world’s trades can be contained under one roof, the skill of industrialization epitomized in the structure itself, and made to look like paradise with a garden under it; calling it ultimately the “menagerie of European colonialism” (Sorkin 1992:209). By extrapolation, it can be argued more importantly to expose the vital organs of capitalism itself: commodification of labour and the subsequent distance between capital and production; apparent when Prince Albert declares the fair a place where, “Powers of production are entrusted to the stimulus of competition and capital” (cited Sorkin 1992:209).

It is interesting to note that even though having given the clues for capitalist tendencies in preceding trade-typologies as argued in this paper, the intentions of the first mall-creators is were d declared as a socialist interventions at the time: Crawford (1992:6) argues that Fourier, who appeared to merge the arcade and palace into pre-figurative mall form, meant to “encourage social intercourse” and “utopian collective productivity”. Unintentionally, rather, he stimulated consumption. Frank van Klingeren designed a series of projects (See Figure 50) in Drenten. , The Netherlands, interestingly returning to the ‘agora’ –meant to be one point of integrated urbanity grouping cultural and social activities around a covered space at the town centre, however, as Orillard (2008:122) describes, it “had the strange effect of cutting off from the street.”

In the 1950s, Victor Gruen adopted these flawed ideals for socialist commercial centre for reconstituting the community in the urban setting (see Figure 49), and built the first mall seen as “integral recipe for urbanism” (Orillard 2008:122) However, ultimately, Gruen’s malls evolved into “efficient retailing machines” where they could be funded in virtually risk-free situations (Crawford 1992:8) as developed by Gruen’s “ideal matrix” of retail (Dovey 1999:137). A renewed understanding of the urban effects of the car also altered urban retail patterns since pedestrian densities could be artificially created at car based suburbs (Dovey 199:125) or positioned on strips and at important intersections (Crawford 1992:19) coupling department store as magnet with arcade (so-called dumbbell form). Gruen effectively attempted to move the agora to the main feature of the ‘New Town’ (Orillard 2008:122) with it emerging as a central mega complex. Consequently, this aborts the characteristic properties of the agora, since, as Orillard argues, the mall invariably is cut off, agora is open, mall is linear, agora is central; the mall is private, agora is for public good (Orillard 2008:124)

Capitalist gain has unleashed this architectural type as autonomous anarchist monster, very different from its humbler beginnings. Sorkin (1992) calls it a variation of a theme park and in the Dawn of the Dead movie (1978) the shoppers are depicted as zombies (See Figure 52). Indeed, the mall does activate our imagination – but, as Dovey shows, the “tragedy of the mall is not that it operates on our imagination, but that it does so in private interest“ (Dovey 1999:138), “often been excoriated as fantasy world of easy fulfilments.” (Tuan 2005: 118).

It is thus that theorists find a link between the mall and theme park (Bovey 1992:200, Sorkin 1992) where malls explicitly entertain, while theme parks function as disguised marketplaces (Crawford 1992:16). In the case of Johannesburg, Achille Mbembe calls its interiorised consumerist enclaves “public theatres of late capitalism”. (Mbembe 2004:394). However, ‘public’ sits uncomfortably as a description, as the colonisation of the ‘public’ for private ends seems contradictory. ‘Theatres’, nonetheless, re-iterate the notion of the carnivalesque, and its perversions. In this perversion of the attractive illusion of the shopping mall, Mike Davis (1992:154) sees a “latter-day Panopticon, prison of consumerism surrounded by iron-stake fences and motion detectors, overseen by police substation in a central tower” (see Figure 51). Extending on the metaphor of the prison, one could argue that a heterotopic version of the city is bound in the mall’s walls – supported by Crawford’s observances that it is both the site of divergence and pleasure (1992:28), and site for social segregation that may be latent in the exterior world to be crystallised and concentrated in the domain of the mall (Crawford 1992: 22-23).

From the mid-1970s to the 1980s, the Gruen mall type begins to fail, as commercialisation seems to reach its saturation point; and the move toward flexibility and diversification is initiated (Crawford 1992:10, 25). Simmel accounts a positivity towards this, citing that diversification that capitalism inevitably evokes, is useful to the progress of the individual and “conducive...To differentiation, refinement and enrichment of the needs of the public” (cited Leach 1997:77). Diversification (See Figure 54) is a code-word finding much use today too on Wall Street; or as Davis (1992:155) calls this domain, the “invisible agora” of the world; where technological security parallels that which exists in its physical counterparts around spaces of trade. The stock exchange, as an architectural type, will be dealt with under the bank chapter of this paper, as they are more concurrently developed and similarly institutionalised. As Muhammad Yunus depicts (2008:1) free markets have swept the globe since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. We return again to a state of trade which is somewhat insecure; where the outcome does not always concern predicted truths; but where we rely on this supernaturality of capital, capital that is so protected and illusory, that only sometimes it provides actual gain… this happens on the trading floor as is depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013):

Mark Hanna: Nobody knows if a stock is going to go up, down, sideways
or in circles. You know what a Fugazi is?
Jordan Belfort: Fugazi, it’s a fake.
Mark Hanna: Fugazi, Fugazi. It’s a wazy. It’s a woozie. It’s fairy dust.

> Regressing The Bank (Retention)

On the trading floor of the nineties, a sort of exhibition of mad money movements is made, as in the case of Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Guy Debord (1994:12) has written that the spectacle is capital accumulated to such a degree that it becomes an image. Nisbet (1990:7) argues that you can tell what is important and informs society by identifying the city’s tallest building (see Figure 55): in the medieval town it was the church, in the renaissance it was the presidential palace… today he depicts it be the skyscrapers of bank companies. Dovey (1999:109) supports that power in architecture is made by distinction, as Tafuri (1979) adds that it made by quantity. Accumulation of volume becomes power; or even the accumulation of the volume it represents (capital).

From the outset, the bank, although central to a city’s society (see figures 56 & 57), could be argued to accommodate heterotopia of capitalism right at that centre; since it operates in a protected safety zone, and relies on a metaphysical construct of humanity in the form of trust5 and guarantee. For Simmel, a coin becomes a physical symbol for the increasingly abstract faith and belief in the value it represents (Frankel 1977: 31). This cognizance for a reliance on a metaphysical sort of faith makes the reasoning of the relationship between bank and temple possible. Williams (2010:1) depicts it is likely that temples were the first version of ‘the bank’, where people kept goods for exchange.

Pevsner (1976:193) reverberates that banking arose from the discovery that a promise to pay can take place of direct payment; in other words, at the invention of credit. Mauss, however, argues the simple gift as its origin, since a gift contains within it both a promise for reciprocation, as well as an unimmediacy - and so a distancing in time (Mauss 1969:35).
This distance, then sets up a sort of private relationship between giver, receiver, and gift; and relies on a sort of ‘indeterminate spirituality’, that the agreement will be honoured. Since the coin was abundant in society, however, and subject to a common understanding of repayment terms, the person borrowing was kept in line by a ‘third order’ - of the outer world as Simmel shows (cited Frankel 1977: 31)

In addition to the separation caused from physical to abstract meaning that money possess, in the origin of the bank we also see the distancing of value from its symbol (money). Williams (2010:1) shows that ‘money changers’ or “those that understood the value of coins” were involved; indicating that someone with an upper hand had been introduced. There is thus a distance also introduced between those who know the value and those that do not.

The usury for retained goods became a topic of contention in medieval times, and so the function of the ‘bank’ lost popularity (Williams 2010:1) until its revival during the Renaissance in Venice. ‘Bank’ is derived from the Italian banco– the word for bench – alluding to the platform over which banking originally took place (Mayer 1987:26, Pevsner 1976:193). Banking thus is derived from Mediterranean origin in the fourteenth century; somewhat inheriting qualities of the market, (Pevsner 1976:193). In Bruges, we see gathering at Place de le Bourse (hence French word bourse), around which existed factories (the term used in the archaic sense, a factor being a commercial agent) or fondaci. (Pevsner 1976:19, See figures 59 & 60)). This open market found in between buildings is then reiterated into a special building of its own with similar properties - Pevsner (1976:193) notes some of the early forms of banks at Loja or Taula de Canvi (‘exchange table’) in Barcelona 1383, and the Loggia dei Mercanti in Bologna in 1382. This type is depicted as open at ground floor, with side aisles and open windows. In 1531, the Antwerp Exchange, we see an appearance of an important evolution to later inform the spatial arrangement of the stock exchange type - with an open courtyard surrounded by cloisters. (Pevsner 1976:195)

As for the bank itself, Pevsner (1976:197) traces its development as a separate institution to the allocation of a private safe-keeping room within the palatial town-house, as found in the example of the Medici Palace in Florence. This is important to the argument at hand as, similar to the origins of the casino, the bank finds relationship in a curtailed area of the private individual in their home - therefore symbolically attached to the personal individual as of which Simmel speaks (Frankel 1977: 31); and in addition also symbolically depicting a detachment from the home, having a new set of rules and spatial protection orders which make the space within it quite different from the quality of the rest of the home or palace.

Secular public banks come into their own in the late sixteenth century. (Pevsner 1976:199). So ensues a proliferation of spatialised accommodation of the ‘freemarket’ within the stock exchange spatial-type, with a conservancy, as Pevsner described (1976: 202,203) of the protected inner courtyard and cloister arrangement (See Figure 61). Initially, the Royal Exchange of London and that of the Amsterdam Beurs followed that of Antwerp with the open courtyard and cloister. Future stock markets show similar continuations of type at Lille 1652-53, Rotterdam 1720, at Cologne 1727, at Bordeaux in 1736, and in the first London corn exchange 1750, and London coal exchange of 1755. (Pevsner 1976:203). In 1880, we see an architectural development with the courtyard at the Royal exchange in London being glazed over, therefore further cut off from the sounds and environmental qualities of the city. The courtyard is given up for the oblong hall, which rises up two floors as in Palladio’s Basilica at Vincenza. (Pevsner 1976:204). Again, one sees the return of money function to religious construct.

Similarly, from the exterior, architecturally estate home-like and Palladian, at the Bank of England we see a first instance of a public bank. (Pevsner 1976:199-200) Started by George Samson, , as described by Pevsner (1976:201), it was later redesigned and detailed by Sir John Soane (See Figure 62). Pevsner (1976:201). describes: “Soane’s exteriors were forbidding, without windows, though with some columnar features... The size of Soane’s halls were a matter of sheer prestige. They were patently much larger than the transactions taking place in them can have demanded”. This internalised grandeur could be re-linked to that of a cathedral type. In 1694, the Bank of England was ordered to print paper money by the government (Mayer 1987: 26). This displays another instance of government (supposedly having the public interest at heart) becoming entangled and dependant on what was to become one of the most concentrated symbols of privatised wealth.

However, it would take an import to America to initiate an approach of self-referential privatization of investment monopoly. As Mayer (1987:26) shows, banks in America began during the Revolution which saw the severing of credit loans from motherland England. The first banks in America drew, argues Gill (1990:4) on the architectural influences of Sir John Soane, using a revival of ancient Greek architecture to “deploy and idea of security”, with the bank as temple (interestingly returning to its location of first origins). As Gill (1990:3) shows, the bank wishes to remain “conspicuous” in the city therefore “modifiable in style”– attaining by William’s description (2010:3) a cloaking of classical Greek, Italianate, French Second Empire, Victorian Gothic or English Queen Anne styles. ‘Commodification’ of banking finds new reaches, with the introduction of bank branches in the nineteenth century (Pevsner 1976:200).

At the same time as banks were being introduced, the stock exchange typology was taking popularity across the western culture capitals, and found further developments with the passage of time. As seen in Figure Amsterdam exchange - designed by H.P. Berlage 1898-1903 shows a highly sophisticated interior spatialisation (Pevsner 1976:206). These spaces began to lay ground for very sophisticated freemarket trading, which would diversify and overshadow the ‘storage’ space of the bank in the coming century, as stock exchanges could offer extraordinary growth of investment, at the cost of risk. Citing Niklas Luhman, (Frankel 1977:37) it could be argued that here, “One person trusts another to master an unforeseeable situation or one which he cannot understand or deal with. By doing so the complexity of the world of the future is reduced for him.” Here, the wish for capitalist individual success, reveals its raw reliance on both speed, and its considerable independence to human rationality and reality.

As Nisbet (1990:12) depicts, the irrationality that was made possible by freemarkets could be epitomised in the dreamlike experience of the so-called ‘Roaring Twenties’: further showing that post World War 1, stocks soared; and hard, labour-earned money was a thing of the past for a few of the new Western elite. Then came the Depression; marking the initiation of tightening belts, insurance of banks and also a change in their architectural style (Nisbet 1990:12). Williams (2010:6) depicts William Lescaze and George Howe designing a thirty-two storey Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (the first bank skyscraper) in 1932. Following World War 2, the bank edifice is again technocized: this at the design and construct of the Manufacturer’s Trust in New York by SOM in 1954 (Williams 2010:7, 8, See Figure 68). The new movement for glass and steel finds its place in theory by Gill (1990:4) as “bank as seraglio 5.”, Where the voyeur and perhaps trust, is further invited. The flash permeability of this heterotopia is then later scrapped for a considerable part in post-modernism, as Pevsner (1976:200) shows. Instead, a return toward the grandeur of the neoclassical is made (Gill 1990:4, 5). The heterotopia is again hidden behind fortress: trust is not one being able to see into the sacred banking space, it is that others can’t see into it; and instead see rather see a temple of power and reckoning. Thus, as Nisbet (1990:8) argues, faith is a common currency in both church and bank. Mauss (1969:9) argues that it is not an “inert” action to give something is to give part of oneself, but rather “retains a magical and religious hold” over the recipient. By extrapolation, the bank also holds a rite of some ‘myth’ or ‘magic’, the ephemeral substance of hope that one’s money (this imaginary thing often found in imaginary places) is kept secure, even allowed to augment or entrusted on gracious loan. It is temple of the hard earned income, or contemporarily more often the lucky victor.


I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll
This time, I feel my luck could change
We are standing on the edge…
(Radiohead, “Lucky” 1997).

If one’s financial existence is a path on a knife-edge; where one may win something for nothing, or the corollary, lose something for nothing; why not enjoy oneself while doing so? As Kolbowski (1996:132) describes, the casino is a “throwback to the ‘get rich’ narrative, at the level of play. ‘Throwback’ indicates a return to a specific point or points in history; ‘level’ indicates a changing hierarchy of function, synonymous with Foucault’s second principle (2008:18)

The origin of gambling itself remains largely ambiguous having been evident in many preceding cultures. One version depicts its birth in China at around 2300 BCE1. However, a specific place to gamble was not evident until the 17th century2. The etymology of the word ‘casino’ as a diminutive of ‘casa’, Italian for ‘house’, shows the beginnings of heterotopic qualities, with a ‘little room’ part of the house, but also separate from its workings. Card games and entertainment are found in such named rooms such as Villa Farnese in Rome1.

Its detachment from the individual house and formalisation into a ‘venue’ finds too, similar to the bank, origins in Venice: in the Ridotto. The ‘Ridotto’ additionally displays clues in its etymology for a move toward separate otherness, and consequent move to privatised space: ‘Ridotto’ is a noun derivative of the Italian verb ‘ridurre’, meaning to ‘reduce’, ‘curtail’ or ‘convert’. By extension: taboo activities of illegal gaming are ‘reduced’ to a special room; where the rules of the house are ‘converted’; where one could exist in a private place not to be bothered. The Ridotto, or Casino di Venezia, at the San Moisè Palace was opened in 1638, with a four storey “supplement and compliment3” to the palace, with a long entrance hall, dining rooms and then gaming rooms on it upper floors 2 The Ridotto was an important mutant of the gambling domain, since it was taken over and run by the government (‘to increase control’ and likely seeing the opportunity for profit), and that it was open to the public2. The mixing of government and private capital create an accessible blind-spot in national ruling.

The closure of gambling houses like the Ridotto pushed gambling into smaller venues2. The existence of the ‘casino’ was pollinated by the fluttering movements of the elite, finding blossom in rich soils offered by entertainment venues; such as music concerts, comedy houses and sporting events2. In America, gambling found an accommodating home in the warm cheery atmosphere of the American saloon, typically where travellers would relax and gamble2. Moral conservatism in the early 20th century pushed many areas to illegalise gambling. In Johannesburg’s case, gambling was in the most part illegal pre-1994, except for the case of horse-racing, which appeared to have been born simultaneously with the city itself, its first race in the year of Johannesburg’s founding. (Malcomess & Kreutzfeldt 2013:122)

In America, legalisation was allowed most notably in Nevada (Kilby et al .2005:1). In the late 1800s and early 1990s, Nevada offered many activities illegal in most other American states. (Kilby et al. 2005:1). The stock market crash of the 1930s, however, saw the rupture of Nevada’s gambling proliferation, as the state wished to use taxes from gambling houses to help pay for state debts, and gambling would “enhance business in general.” (Kilby et al. 2005:2). Hannigan (1988:157) argues that corporate ownership of a casino house that is passed in Nevada brings a version of ‘legitimisation’ to something normally associated with criminalisation. In a localised example, Malcomess and Kreutzfeldt (2013:124) describe that the Turf Club held important underground political function; in Johannesburg. The gambling scene in general sees corporate ownership, government and criminalisation begin to contaminate each other (Low 208:160). Turning to the stock market, as Hannigan (1998:157) describes, seems to be seen as a patch of ‘corporate respectability’, although as argued in lieu of understanding the ‘bank’ heterotopia, this investment could be just as ‘irrational’’ (see page 55).

At Las Vegas, one can mark theorists such as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown and Mike Davis documenting the anomaly occurring at an untraceable rate; the casino is scaled up to urban extremities; Las Vegas acting a heterotopian paradise of otherness. Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour (1972:7) state: “Architects have been brought up on Space…and enclosed space is the easiest to handle” (see Figure 71). Inverting the latent perversions of America in quantity and in force in one location. Las Vegas tips its saturation point in the mid-1970s (Hannigan 1998:151) and begins the decline into crisis, as Ace Rothstein in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995) echoes:

Ace Rothstein: The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. ... In the old days, the dealers knew you name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it’s like checkin’ into an airport…After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically everyone of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds.

The perpetual mirage of the old Vegas got old, Casino tycoons look to once again ‘diversify’, attempting to delete out-dated ‘styles’ by replacing them with new ones; and tapping into developing markets, such as at Macau, or Bophuthatswana, South Africa (Hannigan 1998:152), proliferating hugely in the 1990s when gambling becomes legalised. On this side of the Atlantic, as Chipkin (2008:279) shows, the Apartheid government of the time take up the opportunity to legalise gambling in the country’s homelands. This would afford opportunity for gains through taxing, as well as an improved perception from the outside of the supposed ‘independence’ of the homelands (Chipkin 2008:279) . The large casino constructed at Sun City near Rustenburg is described by Kliby et al (2005:10) as “the most ambitious resort development ever conceived in Africa”, pioneered by Sol Kerzner, depicted at the time as an “escape from rigid conformity Apartheid South Africa” Chipkin further depicts the occurrence of South Africa’s newest major casino at the time: “This sensational building programme was rooted in the social fact that huge fortunes were made in the 1960s/70s boom and the small change jingling in pockets was looking for an outlet in gaming tables, cash machines that Kerzner thoughtfully provided, together with the flashing lights, Pavlovian ringing bells and bonus-point pandemonium”(Chipkin 2008: 279).

The introduction of online gambling in the 90s finds another reinvention of this gambling space; where the privatised playing room becomes capitalised ad infinitum. The casino returns in parts back to the ‘casa’- the house, from which much internet access occurs. The three spatial types of the financial transaction studied (acquisition-casino/bank, exchange-market, and retention – bank) bear a remarkable tale through the perspective of Foucault’s second principle of the heterotopia’s ability to change in function. They display specialities of distance from either the public or legal domain, morphing into privatised microcosms, which inevitably find a dubious blur into the domain of the government (often perverting the moral conservatism for promise of capital gain). The capitalist construct also shows in this skin of distance the ability to reinvent itself, in defence to, or capitalising on over-saturation. The capitalist construct reflects resiliency and power as an architectural space, reacting organically to the rise and fall of economy. It is here, in the casino, that the most primal instinct arises to avert this crisis with magic, and the uncertainty keeps us in the lure of heterotopic dreamscape: “The punishing odds against winning add to the ultimate capitalist fantasy – getting something for nothing” (Kolbowski 1996:132).


Foucault identifies that a heterotopia retains the power to juxtapose in a single real place several spaces that could otherwise be incompatible (Foucault 2008:19-20). Let us continue to use the casino, already shown to be a version of capital construct as a typological means to perceive this theory. Zukin (1991) writes that between entertainment and consumption there is a liminal periphery. It is at this periphery that a ‘limbo’ space occurs; holding in balance two often directly opposing entities. Three types of juxtaposed spaces can be usefully identified through the analysis of financial spaces, which reveal a sense of irony in their co-existence. They are the public and private domains, juxtaposed affluent and poverty spaces, as well as real versus fantastical co-existences.

> Private & Public Togetherness

The capitalist crisis that has been shown to be a both inherent and evolutionary gene of human economic realm. Dehaene & De Cauter (2008:4) point a finger at the clash between the ‘oikos’ – Greek for “private sphere, household” and hence “economy”; with the agora, the public sphere and place of politics. The ‘crisis of the polis’ is argued to be found in an economy, at an attempted “equilibrium” of the two (Dehaene & De Cauter 2008:4). Parallel to this, it is interesting to note the unexpected observances of the progression of the piazza (version of public realm)in comparison with in the casino, in the study that Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour (1972:19) makes. Nolli’s map of Rome is traced: the Inside church in Rome reads like a piazza, the inside of a casino reads like the inside of a church (See Figure 71); except that the casino becomes a big low space to save on air-conditioning cost Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour (1972:50). From this, one can deduce, that these internal spaces render themselves part of the ‘public domain’, similar to Nolli’s church spaces in Rome; but at the same time, the interiorised and often privately controlled, bleeds out into the public realm; effective affecting the quality of ‘street’ (see Figure 72).

Keith Hart describes the household as the original site for economy. (Hull and James 2012:2). Trade and growth was made from within the subsistence family home. Again, the private oikos is juxtaposed with the public quality of agora activities. The private-public juxtaposition creates a state of indeterminacy: is the public wholly ever public, and is the private completely private?. Public and private boundaries are blurred through private governance. “The privatized city of bits is a lie, simulation its connections, obliterating the power of its citizens either to act alone or act together“(Sorkin 1992: xv). Simmel discusses that the person who exists in the modern city exists as an internalised individual, “so that the modern individual becomes an intellectualizes creature whose own disinterested circulation within the metropolis reflects the circulation of money and commodities themselves” (Leach 1997:65). Yet, Simmel further describes this man “remains a creature of the crowd.” (Leach 1997:65). The metropolitan person, thus, because of the capitalist landscape, is forced into an interiorised private existence, a bubble floating in the “blasé”. As discussed before, this phenomenon could result in crisis or deviation, another quality typical of Foucault’s heterotopia (see page 45).

Like the casino to Las Vegas; the critical clash of ‘oikos’ and ‘agora’ in the capitalist realm can be shown to be specialized on the scale of separate entity, as well as whole portions of the city. Dovey (1991:1) argues that “place-making is inherently an elite practice”. This could show that architecture separates the polarities in a society, a Foucauldian heterotopia of the elite private space in proletarian public setting.

> Rich and Poor, Security and Fear, Together.

In the regard of the societal dichotomy, relevance can be sought for the case of the capitalist construct in the domain of low versus high income neighbourhoods; sometimes related in the rural and urban. Lefebvre (1991) argues that in the case of exclusionary policies, there can be expected to be a “counterspace”. While Davis (2006:4) shows that the urban population in the Witwatersrand region to have grown from 1.2 million to 9 million in fifty years, the new urban ‘rural’ immigrants often find re-establishment of a spatial separation, more often than not falling into the side of
‘slum’ rather than ‘elite’ on first entry (Davis 2006:21); separated by a border of wealth. There is an argument that the relationship between rich and poor is not as dependant as expected from the side of the urban poor, where the notion of ‘self-help’ has been theorised as reckonable and praiseworthy by Group CIAM and John Turner (Davis 2006:71) and is a force theorised as “here to stay” in informal settlements (Jenkins and Forsyth eds. 2010:54), forming a kind of resilient self-survival (Crossa 2009). This is not a completely substantial reckoning, though, as Davis (2006:72) argues, many in informal settlements look to hire artisans (likely trained in the domain of the elite) to do the work. This example shows that there is magnetism that exists in the entity of urban rich and poor; with poles able to both repel and attract.

However, there is significant support that their is an overarching duality which co-exists and exchanges. Furthermore, the elite economic practices take advantage of the protection privatisation offers, often attracting new rules to themselves which often undermine the access of the urban poor (Hull and James 2012:2) Covertness in reply to over-regularisation undermines community trust to actively react to top-down capitalism (Bahre 2007, cited Hull and James 2012:16) While there is significant theorization about the polarities between rich and poor, Jane Guyer claims that this dualisation is an inaccurate reflection of the market, as there are little bits of the formal in the informal economies and visa versa:‘ ‘Formalisation and informalisation thus occur in continual interaction with each other, producing a plurality.” (Hull and James 2012:2).

However, the work that seeks to highlight how the growing distance between elite and poorer economic spaces cannot be ignored; As a result of the elite’s wishes to increasingly exclude the risk of the crime carried out by the poor and other elite we find a tense hovering; a financial gradient that occupies space; that separate (Se The heterotopia is the border; caused by the heterotopias of elitist architecture, or as Edward Soja (1992:95) calls “exopolis”; the city on the outside of the city; or the city that happens after the old city dies. This resonates with the work of Lindsay Bremner in her discussion of protected enclaves of the North of Johannesburg (2010:207). Here and through the words of Kim Dovey in an Architecture of Power, professionals in the realm of spatial practice have the ability to reinforce or undermine the harmful exploitation that is inversely proportional to the distance these two zone occupy. Sennett (1973) argues that a diverse urban space is crucial for the reconstructions of identity of a ‘truly civil life’ the diverse space could be found, then, by extension, in the overlap zone; the border.

> Real & Unreal Togetherness

Discussion of the real pitted against the illusion may seem frivolous following the seriousness of exploited relationship and despairing detachment of large entities in the society of the city. However, the understanding of real and unreal can be shown to be strongly embedded in the conversation of capitalist construct. An immediate example of which could be argued at the event of the insertion of ostentatious hedonist frivolities at Sun City in the 1970s amidst the dire poverty and bad conditions experienced in many parts of the homeland in which it sat, as described by Chipkin (2008: 278).

Shield (1992:9) notes that the Latin etymology of ‘law’ and ‘leisure’ shows the origin from the same root word. Why? Could this suggest that leisure has a foot in law, and conversely that law has a foot in leisure? Returning to Sorkin’s description of Disneyland (1992:230), one finds its disguise an elaborate system of security, surveillance and control to maximise spending. The illusion of it also changes proscribed ‘rules’, such the exclusion of certain parts of society who cannot afford to enter. One also notices an important separation of outside and inside business of the themepark and ‘reality’ with the introduction of ‘Disney Dollars’ (Sorkin 1992:223). This adds to the separation and foreignness contrasted to the ‘real world’. At Las Vegas, Davis (1995) depicts corporate spaces prescribing waste as a way of life to celebrate (the wasteful gamble of the elite). The transgression from real to unreal or vice versa shows a disintegration of the trustworthiness of the prescribed version, through the associative words of Heidegger (1971:356): “A boundary is not that at which something stops but…[it] is that from which something begins its essential unfolding”. This unfolding, too implies process and time, in which the minor juxtaposed world can develop as a heterotopia.


Heterotopias are linked to time, as Foucault identifies (2008:20). Either they encompass the accumulation of time, or that of the temporary. Inside the capitalist construct, it can be argued that the perception of speed efficiency is crucial for preferred trading conditions (the efficiency of a shop, the efficiency of the one-armed bandit). However, the success of the capitalist construct depends largely on the increased amount of time spent in the space, especially in the case of the shopping mall (Dovey 1999:132) and the casino (Kolbowski 1996:132). Alejandro Aravena, in the design of the new Tehran stock exchange, concedes this in his design intentions, first remarking on the speed and efficiency needed, but ironically making the opt for a feeling of “timelessness” as a central mood to the building . Dovey (1999:115) speaks of the corner office with a view as a seat of power in the office building: “To have a view is to have a vision”. Conversely, if one doesn’t want the interior visitors to have ‘power’, take away their vision for the future; a heterochronism is constructed on the accumulation of time. This is evident in the spatial design of a casino, where the outside world and its diurnal experience is detached from the interior reality, and the absence of clocks invariably remove future or consequences out of the view of the gambler.

‘Time is money’ may be a painfully over-used cliché; but ‘architecture is money’ should be following suit. Not many may like to admit to the overarching power it holds over design; a power that not in the way that the architecture enables an access to money, but rather that the architecture contributes to making one person richer, and its patrons exploited, somewhat. Rahul Mehrotra produces an attempted exception to this; in discussion of his firm’s work on the KMC Corporate Office in Hyderabad, India, he acknowledged what he called the “landscape of impatient capital” (Mehrotra 2014) . He noted that often the architect is rushed into doing work for earlier completion, and so the architecture is left lacking in its human or environmental responsibilities.

This speed of capital additionally can be argued to allude to a sort of facadist architecture; where architecture that appears to be architecture is really just a superficiality for good design (Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour 1972:7) . Thus, the speed of capital requires the speed of its constructs and for one to ““ride the tiger of time-space compression” (Harvey 1990, cited Comaroff & Comaroff 1999:291). This too adds to the eclecticism or unreality of its spatial existences. Take the case of Johannesburg, “created virtually overnight” as Chipkin (2008: 279) recounts, bringing with it tropical foliage and imported styles out of the histories of other locations. The pre-existing context had no time to catch its breath and speak through the new city being constructed at the flash appearance of gold. Interestingly, here, Chipkin relates Johannesburg to the flash appearance of Sun City, appearing suddenly in a mirage of sometimes completely unapologetic import, in fake rock and palm-trees (Chipkin 2008:279).

Again, the speed of capital can be linked to a supernaturality - further enforcing the financial heterotopia as a fantastical zone: “The ability to deliver in the here and now, again a potent form of space-time compression, is given as the measure of a truly global God” (Comaroff & Comaroff 1999:291). The speed which mobilizes today’s society thus creates a plurality of simultaneously furiously evolving heterotopias, in and out of sync. Here in Johannesburg, one can see new inventive African entrepreneurs fitting in heterotopic cracks of the old restrictive city; new micro-businesses popping up in backyards and taxi-ranks (Comaroff & Comaroff 1999:293). The financial heterotopia thus relies on the precedence of restrictive policy to create new, parallel evolving inventive capital.
However, on the face of this speed and temporariness, capitalist construct architecture sometimes manages to convey with it a routing in time, and accumulation of historical standing. Boyer (1992:185) recounts that the image of history replaces history. This is done often in lieu of the quest for the illusion of authenticity (see page 68) The exterior of the capitalist construct superficially displays an allusion to the accumulation of time, as in Dovey’s (1999:112) example of using stone on the exterior of a shopping mall. Bakhtin’s carnival (1984) finds refuge in a [permanent] architectural construct. Routed in time, it can be argued that a sort of commercial vernacular architecture has thus been created (Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour 1972:83). Even though signs are replaced with new ones, with slightly different messages, and with slightly less than the version before, we remember tit as some version of a sense of place. Achille Mbembe (2008:62), however, on the subject of South Africa’s post-colonial architecture notes that this facadist architecture ““asks the spectator to forget that it is itself a sign of forgetting”. Time becomes completely colonised by the architecture in a single front wall - and its futurism or historicism may set itself apart from the person on the street looking up at it, routed in the present. This affords the capitalist construct further heterotopic tools to segment it off from larger parts of the city. It becomes elite in time, oscillation between the two worlds only permit through restricted designed points of relatable architectural elements - the door, the window. Imagery treads a thin line between invitation and exclusion.(Crawford 1992:27)


Foucault depicts (2008:20) that heterotopias use a system of opening and closing that both isolates and makes them penetrable. In Michael Sorkin’s (1992:xii) description of the prerequisites of a variation of a theme park (also variations of the capitalist construct), it can be argued that Foucault’s fifth principle concerning ‘opening and closing’ proliferates:

a)     The theme park variation relies on the loosening of ties to geographical space, shifting to perception of individuals space and not a whole entirety;
b)    It is security-obsessed.
c)    The theme park is simulating experience is depicted mostly in its architecture of images, causing an “urbanity which devoids itself of the poor, crime or work”.

Sorkin also writes that Disneyland functions as a sort of “escape valve” from the city (Sorkin 1992:212). Valve alludes to an opening and closing construct that is controlled; and ‘escape’ is too important, indicating exist and entry – “it [escapism] can be regarded instead as an occasion for a transformation, a dislocation…a kind of transcendence. “ (Marling: 122). However, as Mike Davis (1992:155), Bremner and Sorkin depict, this skin that opens and closes can be highly militarized, keeping out and keeping in. Van Wyk’’s research (2012:18) shows that in the Cape Town lower-income suburb of Langa, many people describe that, when regarding Grand West Casino, they feel it would be “enormously hard to get into”, even though it is less than 5km away and is easily accessible by public transport. The security systems and strangeness of the space render it unapproachable, where people view it rather as mainly “for whites”, and “don’t know what to do in such places. (Van Wyk 2012:18) Returning to Scorsese’s Ace Rothstein character in Casino (1995), one can become aware of an elaboration on the intense surveillance systems used at a casino. Players are invited in, but cheaters are kept out; money is let in but not so much out:

Ace Rothstein: In Vegas, everybody’s gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are  watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit bosses are   watching the floor men. The shift bosses are watching the pit bosses. The casino  manager is watching the shift bosses. I’m watching the casino manager. And the eye- in-the-sky is watching us all.

And yet, character Nicky Santoro shows too, that the inner heart of the casino, the ‘count room’ where players’ cash is counted, is the biggest blind-spot of all:

Nicky Santaro: Now, notice how in the count room nobody seems to see anything. Somehow, somebody’s always lookin’ the other way. Now, look at these guys. They look busy, right? They’re countin’ money. Who wants to bother them? I mean, God forbid they should make a mistake and forget to steal.

The heterotopia therefore uses a periphery of defensible space, illusionary space, and space that turns away from inner illicit activities. This brings rise for a concern to a sense of freedom of space. Applying Kymlicka’s (2002:341) theories on what defines liberal society, one should be able to decide to enter or exit a minority [heterotopia] space; and even if this space has its own rules, it is liberal if one can choose to be there or not. The nature of access can be analysed through Simmel’s identification and comparison of ‘door’ and ‘bridge’. The bridge can embody the more passive linking of heterotopia to the main body, as it “unifies the separateness of a merely natural being”, sort of “objectively connected”, where movement from either side feels the same, and the difference in entities is blurred or confused in the liminality of the act of walking across the bridge (Leach 1997:65-67). By contrast, however, a door can be observed as a more immediately “separating” element, the door bringing consciousness to the wall that it sits in, which demarcates two sides, inside and outside (Leach 1997:65). The door also embodies the two-sided active act of opening and shutting, where the bridge remains permanent, infinitely ‘opening’, and infinity showing the two different sides: “Because it can be opened, its closure has more meaning. “Leach 1997:66-67). The door also has meaning afforded to it depending which side one enters it from, outside or inside. (Leach 1997:68). The door makes active the choice to open and close, while the bridge does not in it permanence, affording it a double liberty, where one can both decide (freedom of choice) to make movement through it free; and whether to actually move through it. The bridge simple permits the liberty for movement, not the liberty to permit movement or not.
The ideal ‘liberal’ heterotopia (if a liberal ideology is favourable) could be argued to be a door penetration rather than a bridge type, as the door offers further cognizance in the free choice to be connected or not, or transgress or not. However, an inherent quality of a financial architecture, be it a bank, market or casino, has developed a sophisticated method for illusion, to blur the agendas of liberal or privatised.


Within this principle, Foucault (2008:21) theorises that heterotopia retains a specific societal function; illusory to an exposed reality, or creative of an alternate intensely ordered compensatory space for the chaotic ‘reality’ adjacent to which they exist .The unfolding of this sixth principle is intriguing at its level of paroxysm: The safety of the illusion which can allow a certain reality to surface; or the proscription of the meticulous rational order of things to hide that which is disorderly. For the latter, Foucault (2008:21) cites the example of the colony. This has particularly interesting value to the discussion at hand, given the tendency of corporate space, as has been previously argued, to create further colonies of heterotopias which in turn attempt to escape themselves, with spaces of deviation. Each new ‘colony of capital’ thus finds the tendency for purifying further and further any dubious activity (the cloudier its existence in reality it thus becomes).

As for the proscription of the illusion, Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour’s Las Vegas will be studied as a case to unpack its understanding; as well as the effectiveness of its branding. This discussion merely aims to identify the different mechanisms of illusion at play at the service of the capitalist space; taking into account that in some cases the lines between such mechanisms can be two-fold and contradictory.

> Inside Exposures: The Case Of Las Vegas and the Branding of Fantasy

Shane (2008:263) argues that the Palais Royal in Paris displayed pre-emptive signs of the illusionary heterotopia, where functions of theatre, gambling, and prostitution were made available, in a protective cushion of the appearance of ‘‘royal respectability” in the grandiose palace. This secret space allows to be revealed the uncovered irrational desires of the elite. Similarly, in the capitalist construct, one could argue that the protected obscurity of money spaces reveals a sort of vulnerability of reality, in some cases a sort of desperation for money, perhaps otherwise hidden in the real ‘’outside’ world.” In the case of entering a casino, for instance, pride and respectability recedes to a secondary position, while the allure of gain proceeds to the fore. Aaron Betsky’s Queer Space reinforces the perception of deviation space to contrast the order which created it. He defines Queer Space as: “... a useless, amoral, and sensual space that lives only in and for experience. It is a space of spectacle, consumption, dance, and obscenity. It is a misuse of deformation of place, an appropriation of the buildings and codes of the city for perverse purposes. It is a space between the body and technology, a space of pure artifice.” (Betsky 1997: 5) Queer Space thus provides synonym for Foucault’s heterotopia, qualifying most notably in its perversion of illusory devises under the sixth principle.

Interestingly, however, it is architecture that can be used to direct attention away from realities of the real world. In the guise of a carnivalesque space, very real exploitation takes place, taking advantage of this vulnerability: “Beneath the glitter and the showering of special effects lurks the crude business ethos of commercial enterprise” (Leach 1999:77). In the case of Gold Reef City and Monte Casino in Johannesburg, the economy of construction that uses minimal and cost-efficient envelope, which resembles a warehouse shed, remains unseen behind the masking façades and interiors (Chipkin 2008: 357; see figure 83). The efficiencies of the architecture and its immense possibility for money generation is masked beneath playful illusory devices. Thus, the visitor’s consciousness is moved to be poised between having such enough relationship with the outer world to want to win more money; but not too much so as to realise its dangers and want to leave. This delicate quality of the illusory membrane of capital spaces is smart and seemingly resilient as it traps its users out of a fully cognizant realm.

Interestingly, at Las Vegas we find an evolution of the interior illusionary deviation as an externalised mechanism: coins, strippers and luxury expressed as an advertisement to the inside - “Ornament the is the servant of space” (Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour 1972:115). Unexpectedly, does this, then not instead display a sort of honesty of communication? As Leach (1999:76) resonates: “Las Vegas is form for forms sake”; what exactly can be conscripted as ‘form’s sake’? Perhaps, from Venturi and Scott-Brown’s perspective (1972:64) form has the purpose of concealing architecture’s systems and structure; either with ornament which sits independent of these (‘decorated shed’) or by submerging them within a symbolic form (‘duck’).

Both these Las Vegas types seem to encompass in them the will for architectural form to hide architectural system; therefore, contradicting the notion of honest relation of spatial messages. They can also be describe to be in varying states of ‘honesty’ of communication; again using the theoretical understanding of Venturi as the symbolic form attracting to it connotative meanings, offering multiple interpretations, while ornament for ornaments sake; for example in the case of text on a building facade is more explicit and denotive - one knows exactly what is inside (Venturi 1972:71) As will be further discussed, this observance can be made on a multitude of money-making spaces; from shops to banks to hotels. Chipkin (2008:357) the “Disneyland colonialism” of the Westcliff and Grace hotels in Johannesburg as transmitting a fake sense of Anglophile grandeur to appeal to the aspirations of its guests. Later he remarks how at Sandton City, with its use of Italianate decorative styling, “contains within it all the problems of Post modernism - imported design theme mandatory ironic content” (Chipkin 2008: 358). The same can be said for banking: Williams (2010:17) shows that identity attribution is an integral part of contemporary bank design and its effective branding. In the commonly accepted we find a camouflage for other subversive traits to surface. With the example of Las Vegas and its relatable occurrence in the Johannesburg landscape, it can therefore be shown that it is on its skin that the architecture of capitalist space resumes the power to explicitly denote or more ambiguously connote branding for the illusion of grandeur and order; to scramble the deviant mad spaces of desperation that occur within them.
Thus, this brings rise to the notion of the - its connotative or denotive assembly both attracting potential visitors depending on the signs shown; and dispensing the tools for successful entry; for example, perhaps a certain code of dress or available funds. This can be argued to be further exemplified in the case of Las Vegas, in a diurnal study of it. On the strip at night, the signs are the only experience, and in the day, the buildings recede behind them still. (Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour 1972:81). Thus, an inversion of day and night occurs (See Figure 78); where the inside of the casino is plunged into a darkened, night environment in contrast to the day outside; while at night the street feels like it is day with the proliferation of bright lights and signage. The interior’s controlled darkened space (ironically sometimes appearing too as day in night) is timeless, but an overarching space of intimacy and protection (Venturi 1977:49) where the vulnerabilities are allowed to surface if they so desire. It is a fake construct of idyllic, primaeval paradise.

In hindsight, Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenhour’s (1972) pitching of Las Vegas’s paradise, is a lot like Sorkin’s reiteration of the Disney brand: “Disneyland is just like the world, only better” (Sorkin 1992:216). This statement contains within it the intrinsic experience of Foucault’s identified characteristic of a heterotopia (cited Dehaene & De Cauter 2008:19-20); where illusory devices contain within them the ability to expose realities of material vulnerability of both visitor and business; ironically by providing a sense for deviation, play and unreality.


Returning to Sorkin’s discussion (1992:216) of Disneyland and how it brands itself as a better version of reality, it is interesting that the theme park and capitalist construct can also be shown to conversely exist as sanitized experience of reality; simultaneously to a subversive experience of it.
As a beginning to this argument, one can remark this occurrence of the illusory ‘sanitary’ on an urban scale. Bremner (1999:50) describes the movement of money (“white capital”) fleeing central Johannesburg, for new landscapes which “...preserve the illusion that money is clean and safe.” Here an elusive paradise is sought. What happened at Sun City may also lay claim to a wish for paradise, with its imported tropical foliage, fake beach and rock outcrops. (Chipkin 2008: 279) Similarly, Davis (1995) calls Las Vegas a ‘”hyper-reality” of Los Angeles – “land of sunshine on fast forward”. But the brighter sunshine also creates darker and longer shadows…
Zooming in to heterotopias at the scale of architecture, one may consider the case of the shopping mall construct: Dovey (1999:133,137) depicts shopping malls to posses a designed perception of pleasure in a safe and sanitized area, embodied as “a purified economy of social harmony, abundance and classlessness”. Leach (1997:117) describes the experience within the mall as “ imagination, moreover, conditioned by a culture of anaesthetization, which operates as a kind of rose-tinted lens, abstracting the world from its harsh material reality, and repackaging it as an anaesthetised version of itself.” This assists to banish any obstacle to profit (such as decay or crime), “in opposition to the exterior of dereliction, danger, placelessness and alienation” (Dovey 1999:130), ultimately promoting consumerism, effectively becoming a space of “Riskless risk” (Hannigan 1998:71) where consumers can shop in safety.

Gadanho (2013:99) shows that codes and regulations serve and camouflage the interests of the economic exclusive and as Dovey (1999:129) shows; this renders its market system somewhat “opaque”. The sanitized and ‘free’ experience inside the capitalist construct is an incomplete version of the reality it sets itself apart from; since in it, one can argue that the same societal issues find a way to establish themselves. Dovey (1999:136) shows that the power of the shopping centre’s clean image renders a vulnerability in itself with the exclusion of certain groups of people, falling prey to an unexpected new kind of ‘dangerous’ societal deviants for example in that of teenager behaviour in malls.

This quest for the image of the idyllic, clean and healthy also serves to make the spatial reality it exists within seem harsh, ugly or dangerous. Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour describe the interior of a casino as an “oasis” (1972:77); again, an allusion to a sort of paradise. The comfort and decoration on the interior offers a place of repose from the outer world, in Las Vegas literally from a desert. This place of repose re-links to earlier discussions through Simmel’s lens (cited Leach 1997:70) Similarly we find housing estates in the north of Johannesburg offering ‘safe’ sanctuaries of away from the city; that use style to sever off cognizance for realities of violent crime in the city and in its place produce images for a “preferred lifestyle” (Bremner 1999:62).

Italo Calvino’s imaginary Beersheba city can perhaps sum up these two experiences of a capitalist city’s architecture. He describes Beersheba (see figure 82) as a city that is an “Inferno” on the one hand, a city that tries to “adorn its emptiness with expensive items with everything functioning and every machine, “ Assembled and prescribed by the city’s “most authoritative architects” (Calvino & Weaver 1974:111). This is like the illusion of deviation as previously discussed. He then casts the city to its ‘Celestial’ version, one where all these adornments are thrown away “only when it shits [the city], is it not miserly, calculating, greedy”(Calvino & Weaver 1974:111). This relates to the illusory space of disorder or deviation, that compensates for the ‘over-order’ of the main city or architectural body.

> What Does Money Look Like?

When regarding commercial architecture, it is often alluded to by theorists (Chipkin 2008, Venturi, Scott Brown & Izenour 1972, Dovey 1999) that architecture can be intended as a machine betterment of its client’s monetary standing .This may be done either by saving on its materials, or by improving its marketable image, or both (most often). The demand for speed for money and money as abstract sign contribute to the illusory quality of the architecture. Chipkin observes (2008: 294) ‘money-facade’ - apartment blocks being built with the cheapest materials, but yet with a marble-clad vestibule - still permitting the advert of “luxury flats”. Cheapness is the new expensive - developers can get away with more and more, as long as the image to the world is of excess. In the seventies, Venturi, Scott-Brown & Izenour (1972:87) remark that the decorated shed with its designed facade is the favoured type of the current time, over the more integral duck types, perhaps because “decoration is cheaper”. The architectural illusion becomes a machine for profit. Chipkin (2008:298,300) notes at Johannesburg’s boom in the beginning of the 1980s a proliferation of flush reflective glass commercial buildings. Lindsay Bremner calls it the “blue glass chill” , borrowing it from America’s simultaneous boom architecture. (Bremner, cited Chipkin 2008: 300).

Apart from flashy façades, capital also makes demands on architecture in terms of scale. As exemplary, a want for bigness manifests itself in Johannesburg’s skyline, epitomised by the commercial development at the Carlton Precinct. (Chipkin 2008:141). It has been further argued that this consummation of mass as representative of money is not a new thing, at least for Johannesburg; as its dense urban form replicates representation as the mine dumps did before. (Lindsay 2010:83). This echoes earlier discussions by Nisbet (1990:7) on the tallest building in a city representing the most powerful, in our era, those of financial institutions. (see page 51 ) Here, ironically, we see a departure from efficiency of space to a superfluity of it - thus the marketable image the architecture may afford the institution may be much more lucrative than the costs incurred to do so. Again, this may add to the argument that architecture contributes to the illusory property of the capitalist construct. It also provides spatial means to separate itself in the form of scale from the rest o the city; thereby setting up appropriate characteristics for the development for an ‘other’ space; a heterotopia.


The understanding of money space or the various versions of capitalist constructs, through the lens of Foucault’s six principles for a heterotopia provides argument that these spaces often set themselves as separate to the context within they sit. This occurs most notably by the occurrence of threshold which is either or both secured or illusory. They often provide promise of safe rest space from the busy workings of the world; or conversely provide areas for deviancy and entertainment, making the rest of space seem more sterile. Within these segmented enclaves of the city, the internal spaces historically show trajectories which evolve more and more separate and somewhat elite from outside realities; and through enclosure, as seen through Kim Dovey (1999) and Michael Sorkin’s (1992) analysis, these spaces may be able to exert a certain level of power over the people they affect. However, through more anthropological or philosophical perspectives that trace the meaning of exchange through time (as in the case of Mauss(1969) and Simmel(1907), exchange is indicated to intrinsically embody in it a sense of connection between one individual and another, affirming the quality that these areas of transaction, although in part detached from normality, are in fact still connected and localizable within it, qualifying them as heterotopias rather than utopias. The spark connection that exists between the financial heterotopia and reality share a charge over their threshold, and exchange parts of each other with each other. Here, there is moment of greyspace; or greenspace, as earlier discussed. At Simmel’s allegoric door, one becomes cognizant of the two existing sides, and an opportunity for exchange is created.
The responsorial question arises: Could the thresholds of architecture provide new versions of exchange, where the public and private, more elite realm may be able to meet and somehow mutually benefit each other? How can a reassembly of spatial and psychological thresholds in financial institutions assist in making capital more accessible to the to a creative entrepreneur? The results of this research propose a reworked syntax of physical legibilities which make entry, participation and exit in financial systems understandable and therefore more possibly inclusionary. The suggestion thus accepts the nature of money wall and money heterotopia as an inevitable evolution of South Africa’s economy, but instead speculates ways in which architecture can create a loophole into the more protected realm of the wealthy elite, in a version which seeks to offer a ‘win-win’ for all parties involved. The unpacking of the ways in which they operate through Foucault’s depicted six principles or a heterotopia thus provide areas for regard and recalibration, to make the ways in which these often heterotopic spaces work slightly differently.

Essay published in December 2014, University of the Witwatersrand, School of Architecture and Planning. Written by Sarah de Villiers, broader project in which this text features was supervised by Kirsten Doermann. Original document containing this essay available here.

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spaceKIOSK      is a multidisciplinary architecture, research and design studio based in Johannesburg, South Africa.