Amber Case got me thinking with this brief essay on the non-place.
Briefly defined, non-places are urban or industrial spaces where personhood is put on pause. And they’re everywhere, from airports, highways and chain supermarkets, to narrow, suffocating, condo-filled streets — the in-between spaces where people are without relation or history. In a non-place, an individual has no identity beyond their function within it, there’s no organic connection to the outside world, and no immediately identifiable history.
Non-places might seem affordable and efficient, but they pass tremendous emotional labor cost onto the people within them. From waiting rooms to many or most work spaces, our time spent in non-places is so often bracketed into our daily lives, we’ve come to accept them as inevitable.
Most health care facilities can be characterized non-places. Patients are known to have their personhood put on pause during the most basic encounters. Illness, independent of interior design, is a non-space. We don’t need to be in any particular physical location to be on pause. But when we are physically present for our care, the spaces typically fail to connect us beyond the architectural white noise that defines most health environments.
We have come to accept the non-place in health care as inevitable.
Amber Case is fascinating. Her writing and thinking is always worth waiting for.
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Photo by Daniel Jensen.