This retains the idea of space as a container that is filled by human activity. What it misses is that the space that has been tamed–eg., the River Murray or the Mallee–has been historically shaped and moulded by social and, economic relations. Secondly, what has been produced by these forces in turn shapes and constrains human activity.
Lefebvre’s idea of the production of space is a unity of three levels of space: physical space which refers to physical form perceived with the senses: the familiar definition of space; secondly, knowledge of space which refers to the conceptual or technical renderings and calculative planning produced by bureaucrats and the urban and property professions: eg., master plans, zoning plans, activity centres, etc; and thirdly, social space which refers to lived experience, symbolism and meaning.
The social or lived space is strongly influenced by our imagination and is more open to change, contestation and resistance; whereas physical space and mental space tend to reinforce the status quo–class in capitalism. Social space is the area of everyday life that has been colonised by capitalism.
The production of space is therefore much more than a physical act: it is the interplay of perceived, conceived and lived spaces that are produced and reproduced through social, economic and political processes. Lefebvre’s unitary theory of space reminds us that urban space and place are much more than just physical locations or zones on a plan; they are lived, experienced, and the source of social meaning through their use.