Marking a Place: the Role of Void Spaces in the Mental Boundaries of a City (on the Example of the Smolenka River Mouth)
pdf (Русский)


Urban Space Identity non-Places Borders Urban Voids Cultural Memory Spatialization Smolenka Mouth Urban Structure St. Petersburg Myth

How to Cite

1. Troitskaya A. Marking a Place: the Role of Void Spaces in the Mental Boundaries of a City (on the Example of the Smolenka River Mouth) // Journal of Frontier Studies. 2020. № 4 (5). C. 344-381.


How do urban voids affect the formation of urban identities? Holes and voids in the urban landscape are not just a result of geographical dimensions. They intrude into the contours of the city pattern or exist as its basis and organize the place around. Mental mapping allows us to draw invisible borders of urban areas that acquire independent significance because of these gaps. The aesthetics of urban lost spaces have their own background, especially when it comes to the cultural memory intrinsic to this landscape. However, has meaningful mnemonic experience take a place for within these mental boundaries always? Can we talk about the Petersburger’s regional identity in connection with neogenic territories?

The paper uncovers the locus with zero level of cultural memory — the current entry of the Smolenka River the waters of the Gulf of Finland in the Northwestern part of Vasilievsky Island. The Smolenka River mouth and the area around it are considered as one of the St. Petersburg “non-places” (in Marc Augé’s terminology), i. e. places deprived of personal history and not defined through identity and cultural relations. The draft of a nonexistent park and the channels surrounded by wastelands are not only a physical gap in city blocks, but also the embodiment of emptiness as a clean slate of cultural memory. At the same time, the Smolenka mouth is one of such territories that are quickly filled with related cultural meanings and stylistic allusions, which leads to the emergence of a new symbolic landscape.
pdf (Русский)


Akkerman, A. (2012). Philosophical Urbanism and the Predilections of Urban Design. In J. Burian (Ed.), Advances in Spatial Planning (pp. 3–26). Rijeka: InTech. DOI: 10.5772/34331

Assmann, A. & Shortt, L. (Eds.). (2011). Memory and Political Change. London: Pal-grave Macmillan.

Assmann, J. (2004). Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination. M. M. Sokolskaya (transl.). Moscow: LRC. (In Rus-sian)

Augé, M. (2017). Non-places: an introduction to hypermodern anthropology. A. Yu. Konnov (transl.). Moscow: New Literary Observer. (In Russian)

Basalaeva, I. P., Dubman, E. L., Mizis, Y. A., Milchev, V. I., Sen’, D. V., Urushadze & A. T., Khodarkovsky, M. (2020). How to study frontiers today? Discussion on the article by D. V. Sen’, Studia Slavica et Balcanica Petropolitana, 1, 81–105. Doi: 10.21638/spbu19.2020.105 (In Russian)

Brednikova, O. & Zaporozhets, O. (2018). Micro-urbanism. A trap for the city. In O. Brednikova & O. Zaporozhets (Eds.), Micro-urbanism. City in details. (pp. 13–39). Moscow: New Literary Observer. (In Russian)

Certeau, M. de (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. S. Rendall (transl.). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Doron, G. (2018). The “dead zone” and the architecture of transgression. Doctoral Dissertation, Delft. DOI: 10.4233/uuid:177004e0-68fe-430b-a085-3baf7c57fd47

Epshtein-Pliusch, M. (2003). The image of St. Petersburg in Western architectural studies. In V. Ye. Bagno (Ed.), The image of St. Petersburg in world culture. Proceedings of the international conference (June 30 – July 3, 2003) (pp. 527–540). St. Petersburg: Nauka. (In Russian)

Febvre, L. (1973). Frontier: the World and the Concept. In P. Burke (Ed.). A New Kind of History from the Writings of Lucien Febvre. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Foucault, M. (1984). Of Other Spaces. Architecture, movement, continuity, 5, October, 46–49. (in French)

Furtai-Proskurina, I.-F. V. (2017). Urbis futurum: the evolution of urban space as an ontological problem. In S. G. Eremeev et al. (Eds.). XXI Tsarskoye Selo readings: Proceedings of the International scientific Conference. April 25-26, 2017 (Vol. I, pp. 123–127). St. Petersburg: Pushkin Leningrad State University. (In Russian)

Grigorieva, Е. (1998). Time and space of St. Petersburg from the micromythological viewpoint. In Sign System Studies, 26 (pp. 151–185). Tartu: TUP. (In Russian)

Khan-Magomedova, V. (2011). In the footsteps of emptiness in contemporary art. Dia-logue of arts, 6. Retrieved from: (In Russian)

Kobak, A. V. & Piryutko, Yu. M. (2011). The historical cemeteries of St. Petersburg. Moscow: Centrepolygraph. (In Russian)

Kobrin, K. (2020, July 23). Drifting into post-solitude. Masters Journal. Retrieved from: (In Russian)

Lefebvre, Н. (1971). Everyday Life in the Modern World. S. Rabinovitch (transl.). New York etc.: Harper & Row.

Lurie, F. M. (2001). Architectural landscapes of St. Petersburg (printed graphics). In Yu. N. Bespiatykh (Ed.). The Phenomenon of St. Petersburg. Proceedings of the Second International Conference (pp. 304–315). St. Petersburg, Russian-Baltic Information Centre “BLITZ”. (In Russian)

Lynch, K. A. (1982). The Image of the City. V. L. Glazychev (transl.). Moscow: Stroyizdat. (In Russian)

Merriman, J. M. (1991). The Margins of City Life: Explorations on the French Urban Frontier, 1815-1851. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mitin, I. I. (2017). Mental maps in Geohumanities: from local orientation towards spatial Myths mapping. Labyrinth. Journal of Philosophy and Social Sciences, 2, 6–17. (In Russian)

Nikitenko, G. Yu. & Sobol, V. D. (2013). Buildings and people of Vasilyevsky Island. Moscow: Centrepolygraph. (In Russian)

Nikolaeva, Zh. V. & Troitskaya, А. А. (2020). Discourse on Identity as a Way of Un-derstanding Urban Space. Journal of Frontier Studies, 5(1), 11–28. DOI: 10.24411/2500-0225-2020-10001(In Russian)

Nora, P. (1999). Between Memory and History: Realms of Memory. In P. Nora (Ed.), D. Khapaeva (transl.), France – Memory (pp. 17–50). St. Petersburg: Saint-Petersburg University Press. (In Russian)

Nora, P. (2005). Worldwide Triumph of Memory (orig. “The Reasons for the Current Upsurge in Memory”). M. Sokolskaya (transl.). Neprikosnovennij Zapas. Debates on politics and culture, 40-41(2-3), 202–208. (In Russian)

Rieber, A. (2004). Changing frontier concepts and construction: historical com-parativism. In I. V. Gerasimov et al. (Eds.), The New Imperial History of Post-Soviet Space (pp. 199–222). Kazan: The Center of Nationalism and Empire Studies. (In Russian)

Romanova, A. (2018, October 17). The Park that doesn't exist: developers of the territo-ry at the mouth of Smolenka promise to create a green zone. Re-trieved from: (In Russian)

Rosbalt. (2006, December 18). The Naval Museum will be located on an island at the Smolenka River mouth. Rosbalt. Retrieved from: (In Russian)

Rose-Redwood, R., Alderman, D. & Azaryahu, M. (2010). Geographies of toponymic inscription: new directions in critical place-name studies. Progress in Human Geography, 34 (4), 453–470. Doi: 10.1177/0309132509351042.

Rubins, M. (2003). Petersburg topos in French travel essays first half of the XIX centu-ry. In V. Ye. Bagno (Ed.), The image of St. Petersburg in world culture. Pro-ceedings of the international conference (June 30 – July 3, 2003) (pp. 266–28). St. Petersburg: Nauka. (In Russian)

Sablin, I. D. (2008). The story number one: urban planning. Secrets of redevelopment. The Quartenier. Special thematic supplement to the magazine SPb.Sobaka.RU, 9 (69), September, 10–13. (In Russian)

Sablin, I. D. (2009). The story number five: about the Marine Facade. To sit in (Mar-quis's) puddle. The Quartenier. Special thematic supplement to the magazine SPb.Sobaka.RU, 2 (74) February, 18–21. Retrieved from: (In Russian)

Savchuk, V. (2012). The Fence as a Kind of Media. International Journal of Cultural Research, 4(9), 105–111. Retrieved from (In Russian)

Savchuk, V. V. (2000). An involuntary line of the landscape. Alexander Kitaev’s Pe-tersburg. St. Petersburg: Academia. (In Russian)

Schenk, F. B. (2001). Mental maps: the construction of geographical space in Europe from the Enlightenment to the present day. Literature review. A. Zhorova (transl.). New Literary Observer, 52, 42–61. (In Russian)

Sementsov, S. V. (2014). Development of the coastal waters of St. Petersburg in the XVIII – early XXI century under construction. In Rodionov A. A. (Ed.). Russian Navy and cultural traditions of Saint Petersburg (pp. 172–191). St. Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriya. (In Russian)

Shevelev, E. (2018). City with(out) humans: practices of reclamation of empty and abandoned spaces. In O. Brednikova & O. Zaporozhets (Eds.), Micro-urbanism. City in details. (pp. 42–63). Moscow: New Literary Observer. (In Russian)

Shields, R. (1991). Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity. Lon-don: Routledge Chapman Hall.

Shmyglevskaya, Yu. (2009, November 10). From Putin's residence to the hotel on Vasi-lievsky. Delovoy Peterburg. Retrieved from: (In Russian)

Shubinskiy, V. I. (2001). Autogeography. Znamya, 12, December, 115–129. (In Rus-sian)

Stepanov, A. V. (2006). St. Petersburg passeism. Pro et contra. Scientific papers, S, 140–147. (In Russian)

Stepanov, A. V. (2016). St. Petersburg Architecture. Phenomenological Approach. St. Petersburg: ARCA. (In Russian)

Troitskaya, A. A. (2020). Reconstruction of invisible. The Building of Narva College (Tartu University) in the historical image of the city. In S. S. Avanesov & E. I. Speshilova (Eds.), Materials of the III International Scientific Conference “Visual Anthropology–2019. City-University: Living Space and Visual Environment”, August 28-30, 2019, Veliky Novgorod, Russia (pp. 509–521). Veliky Novgorod: NovSU. Doi: 10.34680/visant-2020-509-521 (In Russian)

Trowbridge, C. C. (1913). On fundamental methods of orientation and imaginary maps. Science, New Series, 38 (990), 888–897.

Trubina, E. G. (2011). City in Theory: the Experiences of Understanding Space. Mos-cow: New Literary Observer. (In Russian)

Yakushenkov, S. N. (2015). Frontier as a cultural paradigm. The Caspian Region: Poli-tics, Economics, Culture, 1(42), 288–298. (In Russian)

Zamyatin, D. N. (2006). Culture and space. Modeling geographic images. Moscow: Znak. (In Russian)

Zaporozhets, O. & Lavrineс, E. (2008). The dramaturgy of urban fear: rhetorical tactics and «unattended articles». In N. Milerius, B. Cope (Eds.). P.S. Landscapes: Op-tics for Urban Studies (pp. 83–103). Vilnius: EHU Press. (In Russian)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.