polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Thinkers of Space in Their Working Spaces

by Hector Fernando Burga

Walter Benjamin, perhaps searching fragments in archives for “Some Motifs on Beadelaire
at the Bibliotheque National de France, Paris.

This post was inspired by an image of Walter Benjamin absorbed in his work at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris. I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to collect images from the web and make a gallery showing thinkers of space in their working spaces.

Martin Heidegger, perhaps doing a final review of Building Dwelling Thinking in his office.

As it turned out, the search wasn’t easy. While images pertaining to old and new authors whose writings on cities influence contemporary urban debates clutter virtual space, they mostly comprise face shots, conference photos, or simply the front cover of their emblematic publications.

Francois Baudrillard, perhaps taking break after writing The Beaubourg Effect.

Benjamin’s photograph is a peculiar case in comparison to the others I found. The selection I came up with, as any type of selection, leaves questions in regards to what it shows and what it doesn’t. They lead me to consider the staging of such photographs, the perspectives from which they are taken and the control the writers may impose on their compositions.

Richard Sennett, perhaps pondering identity in his working space.

Do these representations still mean anything in today’s diversified paperless digital age? Against the prognostication of the end of the library, the writer and her/his books may become an obsolete form of portrait in this century. With it, the aura of authority, power, access to information and knowledge that these images represent may turn to different types of profiles or content on the web. What are today’s portraits of thinkers of space in their thinking spaces?

Michel Foucault in his office, perhaps submerged in Panopticism.

Credits: Image of Benjamin, by Gisele Freund, Heiddeger by Pillippe Lacou-Labarthe, Image of Sennet by the NYT, Image of Baudrillard by J. Lane, Image of Foucault from Portail Michel Foucault.