A Sense of Place

What gives a location a sense of place?

Is it the coordinates at which the place is located? Is it the views one can witness in this particular location? Is it the history/memories created on location? Does it need to be unique? Does it need to be something grander? Is it due to the structure currently or previously residing in the location?

We designers often struggle to come to terms with whether or not a building needs to be influenced by the surrounding environment as failing to do so can periodically create the spaceship effect. However if taken to the other end of the pendulum, we can find ourselves in a situation where a new building lacks character, it fails to contribute to the conversation buildings have with the environment they sit in and the world in which it resides.

If you have ever visited Paris you have the tendency to feel like you are trapped in a snow globe. The new simply does not exist as it has fallen victim to maintaining the old however the sense of place is impeccable. Is there room for architects to contribute to its sense of place, or have we simply been displaced from such regions in the world?

Burning man; a massive annually held week long music festival is known as place but has been relocated several time throughout history, and is short lived. A few months prior to the festival, and a few weeks after the festival, the land on which the event is held is nothing more than a scathing patch of dirt located in a sea of sand.

We as architects should not attempt to answer the question(s) but rather use it as a guide; a broken compass. To design not what something should be but rather hold a mirror to those that interact with the project and ask “will I remember this place?”.

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