I am increasingly captivated by, not just a sense of place, but by the mystery of place. What is it that connects people to place in such a transcendent way? Travel is often spoken of as being like a mind altering drug. Change physical perspective and you change reality. But of course there is much more contained in a sense of place than just physical presence. Place is anthropological. That is, we cannot understand people outside of the context of place. This, I believe, is as true of individuals as it is of cultures.
Isn’t it interesting how some people have such a strong sense of personal space? For some this is a unique posture, style of dress and manner of speaking. For others it is the decoration of their home, office or even their car.
Communities, too, have distinctive designs. This goes beyond styles of architecture, layout of streets or number of parks. It is the very character of a place.
And of course whole cultures have a beautiful sense of place. This is one reason why food is so wonderfully compelling. It is an expression of the character of a place. Whether it is the elegant simplicity of the Japanese or the rich complexity of the Italians, the personality of a people is painted on the palate. In eating the food of a place, you are literally eating that place, as the food is grown from its soil or waters.
This, to a large degree, is the effort of the Transitions theory of design – connecting design to the full human dimension of a sense of place. This is the task of good custom design, whether it be a kitchen, bathroom, whole house or urban design.
I seek a more robust sense of what it is to have a sense of place. If, in your professional field of study, you know of resources that deal with this, I would greatly appreciate a reference. Also, I would love to hear your perception of space. This might be a place that influenced you as a child, your sense of your personal space, your home, your community, a place in nature or nature in general – anything that gives you a sense of connection to a physical space.
Learn more about our transitions design process
Also read The Nature of Your Home