Analysis Of The Concept Of Place Within Different Disciplines

“Place is how we make the world meaningful and the way we experience the world.”

The world could be seen as a variety of different places that give us an opportunity to see and understand it better. There are different approaches to the concept of place within fields of cultural and social geography, anthropology and environmental psychology, Disciplines such as anthropology and cultural geography consider a notion of “place” through the interpretive humanistic framework, and studying human experience. While cultural geographers such as Harvey (1989) and Soja (2000) look at the “place” through a lens of the neo-Marxist critique focusing on political action and institutional, local and global power relations. Environmental psychology defines the notion of “place” as a range of shared values created through perceptive experiences of places underpinned by concepts of place attachment, sense of place and place identity. Within the field of philosophy, place is a means of being in the world. While, in the architectural and design practices, place is considered mainly from the perspective of physical attributes and built environment, leaving the dimension of individual and collective meanings undervalued.

For a long time, the dominance of the spatial science guided by a descriptive approach narrowed the notion of place only to the dimensions of distinctiveness and particularity. As a result, the aspects of the human experience of the place were disregarded. Only a few decades ago, within a field of humanistic geography, Tuan (1977) introduced one of the fundamental ideas of place theory claiming that through our experience and perception of places we learn about the world. Turan suggested that the notion of “place” differs from more abstract and functional notions such as “location” and “spaces” because places are fields of care that infused with meanings and feelings that are based on human experience, social relationships, emotions, as well as thoughts.

The term “topophilia” comprised the “affective bond between people and a place (Tuan 1974). “Place can be as small as the corner of a room or as large as the earth itself: that the earth is our place in the universe is a simple fact of observation to homesick astronauts...Geographers tend to think of place as having the size of a settlement: the plaza within it may be counted a place, but usually not the individual house, and certainly not that old rocking chair by the fireplace”.

In the work “Place and Placelessness” (1976), Relph argued that everyday experience plays a key role in understanding and knowing place. Influenced by the philosophical works of Heidegger (1971) and the philosophy of phenomenology, Relph appealed to the essence of place, questioning “what makes a place a place?” and developed a range of features that reveal the essence of place and human experience of place such as visuality, the sense of community, the sense of time and the value of rootedness. Relph distinguished 3 elements that construct place: “physical settings”, “human activities” and “meanings”. Lately, he explained: “Place is more than a location. “Place” meant “those fragments of human environments where meanings, activities and a specific landscape are all implicated and enfolded by each other.” (Relph 1993) This way, “place” may be described as a geographical location that is characterized by specific meanings, memories, sensual experiences, stories and interpretations.

In social science, Agnew (1987) defined place as a “meaningful location”. He indicated “location”, “locale” and “sense of place” as three main components of place. “Location” refers to a specific geographical area that encompasses the settings for social interaction. “Locale” means the material settings in which social relations are constituted (these can be informal or institutional). “Sense of place” described as cognitive-emotional attachment and connection that people develop toward place. According to Agnew, all three components have to be considered equally in the research because place exists in a particular social context that is created by social relationships; place has a specific geographical location that suited in the social, economic and cultural contexts; place gives a specific sense of place and a “subjective territorial identity”. Such definition of place goes close to other concepts of human geography - space and landscape.

An urban theorist Lefebvre (1991) distinguished two types of space - abstract space (absolute space) and meaningful space (social space), where social space is similar to the notion of place. Tuan (1977), considered space as more abstract notion without meaning that associated with a movement, while the place was seen as a pause. “...if we think about the space as that which allows movement, then place is pause; each pause in movement makes it possible for location to be transformed into place.” (Tuan 1977)

Relph distinguished space as: “Space is amorphous and intangible entity that can be directly described and analysed. Yet, however, we feel or explain space, there is nearly always some associated sense or concept of place. In general, it seems that space provides the context for places but derives its meaning from particular places.”

The landscape comprises a visual character and refers to material topography. It is defined as a piece of land that could be viewed from one spot. However, landscape relates not only to material settings but also to human or cultural aspects, creating cultural or human landscapes. Cresswell claimed: “We do not live in landscapes - we look at them” Cresswell (2004).

Following the humanistic idea of three elements of “place construction”, psychological science interprets the “place” as a notion that composed by actions, conceptions and physical attributes. Canter, as a representative of the psychological approach, suggested that construction of place includes four interconnected components. In “facet theory”, Canter (1997) listed “functional differentiation”, “place objective', “a scale of interaction” and “aspects of design” as facets of place. Functional differentiation addresses the relation between activities that occur in the place and designed the physical features of the place. Place objectives correlate with earlier suggested “conception element”, but have a more precise approach to the place experience by distinguishing cultural, individual and social aspects of it. A scale of interaction facet emphasizes the significance of the scale. In spite of the diversity of approaches to the concept of place within different disciplines, they all define meanings as an essential component of place.

01 February 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now