Territory is a term whose polysemy is revealed through multiple potential approaches, be it in architecture, art, geography, urban planning, anthropology, ethology, sociology or politics.
All territories are shaped through an oscillation between control and latitude. A country’s borders, for instance, are just as easily defined by war, conquest and discipline as by spatial constraints. But a territory can also develop in the imagination, in an involuntary way, from a sound, a scent, a memory.
A territory is carried within the self above all. The act of territorialising materialises the intention of a “place for oneself”. This may take the form of birdsong. This actualisation also applies to any human act of construction, which delimits everything by creating an “outer” space, a scope of possibilities. It begins to form at project stage, continuing at the stage of technical, artisanal or industrial materialisation. To define a territory is also to open a discipline to an outer place, a new field of de-territorialisation.
Symbolically, territory is the field of a human activity – a space for learning and practice defined by rules: a discipline. The disciple is, in principle, subject to these rules, the transgression of which requires correction. Yet in the professions of interior architecture and design, an increasing number of other professions and areas of expertise are invoked and combines in the project process and the production of spaces and objects. We are witnessing the emergence of “new interior designers”, who create interiors by breaking from traditional rules to forge new artisanal or industrial expertise, technical objects and natural materials.
Similarly, in the performing arts, visual arts are being called to the stage. Boundaries are being blurred between art, design, scenography, traditional techniques and new processes, as well as between culture and product. Should we redraw these boundaries, or delight in this fusion of disciplines?
Current environmental philosophy (Vinciane Despret, Virginie Maris) invites us to consider territory through a dynamic other than domination (dominion inherited from Roman law), property, control. In other words, in a regime that recognises a dynamic linked to difference and multiplicity, and not a fixed identity, as the foundation of any territory: there is only shared territory, cohabited territory.
Territory, nature and culture. The notion of territory resonates with that of the context used in our interior architecture and design projects. Territory does not exist in nature, it is produced by the collective act of inhabiting, its limits and purpose are cultural rather than solely geographic.?How do we approach the territory of non-humans, animals, plants? Are there habitable territories outside of Planet Earth? Can they be “terraformed”?
- Territory and metropolis. The notion of territory refers to the issue of designing human space, an approach that is continuously renewed in law, politics, physics and architecture. The contemporary figure of this design is the metropolis, a system centred around jurisdiction and the productive and financialised organisation of flows. The hyperindustrial metropolis is on a path to becoming a planetary figure that erases any distinction between territories.
- Territory and the body. Territory is calibrated by bodily experience. Be it a country, a garden or a performance stage, territory is perceived and built through a coming-and-going from inside to outside, from the body to the outer world, in a host of exchange-based trajectories. These trajectories peak at the hand, which shapes the technical territories of “doing”. The artificial embodiment of this dynamic reticulation of territory by living bodies is GPS.
- Territory and time. Any perception of a territory as “home” has a certain rhythm, as per Deleuze and Guattari’s contribution to the definition of territory. There is no territory without movement, movement that instantly defines a potential space outside this territory. The possibility of this movement is conditioned by time, which is deployed in a kind of refrain, like the song of a bird that marks and inhabits a territory. All territory is a space-time. As Paul Virilio demonstrated, the speed and acceleration of technology is plunging the density of territories into crisis: exchanges are becoming more instant, differences erased; the multiple is becoming individual.