Heterotopia and the Ordering of Contested Urban Public Space: A Case Study of the Sarpi Neighbourhood (Chinatown) in Milan

Public spaces in contemporary cities are facing increasingly complex situations of conflict and co-existence. As public space is growingly recognised as a process in the making rather than a pre-made container for static social realities, new research perspectives are needed to aid our understanding of public spaces’ role in the ever-evolving urban world. This chapter adopts heterotopia as an analytical framework to discuss the layered qualities of public spaces and their adaptive function underpinned by an assimilation-accommodation mechanism. Instead of using heterotopia as a label for certain ‘other’ sites, this chapter looks into the Sarpi neighbourhood, the so-called Chinatown of Milan, as an example of a contested public space and argues that a key lesson offered by a heterotopian perspective on public space study is to untangle the processes of different actors and forces interacting with each other to produce specific socio-spatial outcomes as a result of ordering and adaptation.