I finally got round to reading Łukasz Stanek, Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory, which has been out for a little while. The book is extremely well researched, and filled with interesting discoveries from archives and through interviews. The key addition the book provides is to ground Lefebvre’s work on space and the urban in the empirical work he was involved with in architecture and urban planning. This adds a valuable counterbalance to work that seeks to understand Lefebvre’s theories on space in their conceptual and historical context. I don’t agree with the claim on the backcover of the book that the “prevailing view… reduces Lefebvre’s theory of space to a projection of his philosophical position”. My sense is that the attempt to see his theory of space as philosophically grounded – something I attempted in my Understanding Henri Lefebvre – is far from dominant and not discussed nearly as much as it should. I think much work on Lefebvre sees his claims as operating without any context – historical, political, empirical or conceptual. In my book I tried to show how the work on space developed out of two key strands – his work on the urban and the rural (the latter largely neglected in anglophone debates, though Nick Entrikin has done some interesting work on this); and his philosophical work. Stanek provides a major contribution to the understanding of the first of these, but I see them as complementary, rather than opposed, contextualisations.
One of the most interesting bits of the book is in the closing few pages, when Stanek discusses a manuscript Lefebvre wrote entitled Vers une architecture de la jouissance in 1973 – immediately before The Production of Space. Stanek is editing this manuscript for publication, and it is likely to be a really important addition to what we know of Lefebvre’s work in this field.