Lefebvre’s Theory of Space

Lefebvre’s Theory of Space



Lefebvre’s Theory of Space

Summary of Henri Lefebvre’s Theory of Space

As one of the great contributors toward the understanding of space, Henri Lefebvre provides some significant explanations regarding the production of space. Precisely, Lefebvre presents a stance that supports the coexistence of spatial and social oppositions despite the presence of apparent differences. Thus, Lefebvre offers an approach of abstracting and communicating a mended coherence between the opposing elements to ensure that the link between practice and abstract is sustained. Therefore, Lefebvre presents a relatively complex explanation of the production of space by linking it to the social aspects of society.

According to Lefebvre, space is a product that cannot be separated from its modes of production with regards to unique spatial practices of a given culture. Thus, each society has its space that is attained through different modes of production. Besides, Lefebvre asserts that place and time play vital roles in explaining how modes of production make space concrete rather than an abstract. Also, Lefebvre suggests that the meaning of space may vary from one society to the next due to the differences in modes of production. Thus, Lefebvre claims that that space refers to ‘social space.’ As such, Lefebvre explains social space using three perspectives, namely, representational space, representation of space, and spatial practice.

Spatial Practice

Spatial practice, according to Lefebvre, entails production and reproduction that are shaped by times and locations when such events occur. Subsequently, spatial practice attracts a certain degree of spatial and social cohesion while encouraging continuity of particular production and reproduction activities in a given society. As an example of social practice that is not conceptualized before experiencing, Lefebvre asserts that spatial practice is concrete. Therefore, spatial practices could elaborate on political aspects, as evidenced by the Roman domination during ancient times. Thus, the cohesion aspect is crucial since it dictates the degree of performance and competence at a particular social space, as well as the connection of every individual to such a space.

Representation of Space

Representations of space refer to the conceptualization of lived space with the consideration of what was perceived and attained. Thus, representations of space act as the dominant space in a given community because it elaborates that space is an abstract. Even so, Lefebvre asserts that representations of space serve as operating grounds for architects who are engaging in the production of a particular type of space at a given place and time. Hence, the dominant representation of space that significantly influences the production of space exists in every context.

Representational Spaces

The final section of Lefebvre’s triad, representational spaces, refers to complicated symbolisms, which could be coded or not, that are connected to the concealed aspects of art, religion, and social life. Representational spaces are what human beings’ imaginations strive to alter and appropriate because they are passively experiencing. Hence, representational spaces rely on the symbolic use of elements in the physical space. Besides, Lefebvre asserts that this type of perspective attracts the most important symbolic spaces for residents of a given area, such as a particular village rather than the whole nation because they are linked to the history of an individual and their community. Hence, representational spaces dictate boundaries of a locality such as a playing field, graveyard, or village church.

Overall, Lefebvre does not provide an operative theory on how to establish a space. Besides, Lefebvre does not offer prototypes, typologies, or models of spaces. Instead, Lefebvre offers a complicated explanation of the production of space that does not provide particular results since he sees system-building as a way of straightforward expression of reductionism, abstraction, and power. Also, Lefebvre suggests the possibility of counter-spaces, counter-proposals, and counter-projects without specific results. As a result, Lefebvre’s ideas have lasting generative capabilities since it triggers interested communities and individuals to invent strategies for establishing specific results (Coleman, 2014).

Parallels between Lefebvre’s Theory and James Turrell’s Within Without, 2010 Installation

While Lefebvre presents a non-operative theory, Turrell’s installation offers a practical approach that scientists can implement to determine and understand space.

Lefebvre’s theory does not provide guidelines and advice on how artists can accomplish particular design tasks. On the opposite, Turrell’s installation presents detailed approaches through which artists can develop particular designs for influencing space.

Lefebvre’s theory presents complex explanations of how space is produced but does not suggest any specific results. On the contrary, Turrell’s installation adequately elaborates on what space is with particular results.

Lefebvre asserts that space means social space that is described through three perspectives that entail representational space, representation of space, and spatial practice. On the other hand, Turrell’s installation shows that space is an abstract aspect that can be elaborated with the use of light.

While Turrell relies on light to experiment on what space is, Lefebvre uses the Roman community to elaborate on how society produces space.

According to Lefebvre, an individual or community could generate social space through mental processes. On the opposite, Turrell’s installation suggests that the Ganzfeld effect leads to the formation of space (The Conversation, 2015).

According to Turrell’s installation, the formation of space depends on an individual’s current experiences. On the opposite, Lefebvre claims that the formation of space is a community as well as an individual process.

Discussion Questions

Why did the first-century BC Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (famously known as Vitruvius) outline Lefebvre’s earliest spatial code?


Lefebvre’s thinking always revolves around concrete and practical aspects.

Why does Lefebvre assert that space is a product because it is producible and reproducible?


Since space is the outcome of unique spatial practices of a given culture and is inseparably linked to the ways of generation, they act as products that a community can produce and reproduce.

How does Lefebvre’s theory elaborate on political space?


According to Lefebvre’s representations of space explanation, a prevailing representation of space that will significantly dictate generation of space always occur at any given context, including political settings.


Coleman, N. (2014). Lefebvre for architects. Routledge.

The Conversation. (2015). Experiments with light: James Turrell dazzles at the NGA. The Conversation. Retrieved 28 April 2020, from https://theconversation.com/experiments-with-light-james-turrell-dazzles-at-the-nga-35677.