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Giving Architecture a “Sense of Place”

Greater than the Sum of its Parts

What should the term “sense of place” mean to you as an architect?

A “place” is a simple term at first glance; but when you delve deeper, various issues spring forward…

For starters, there are specific features that usually tend to come together to make up a “place”. One of these features might include a physical configuration like having a center with boundaries, neighboring sub-center clusters and a peripheral fringe. A “place” also usually has a type of circulation embedded within it, one that is accessible and efficient. Many things can come together to make a “place”, but when a design has a “sense of place” it often becomes greater that the sum of its parts.

When Architecture Communicates

There is probably a moment when a simple “place” exudes a “sense of place”; most evident when providing an “orientation” that contributes to the community or culture that is larger than it. Some have even said that architecture with a “sense of place” has “soul”.

As your architecture takes form, you should keep the idea of “orientation” in mind. This involves factors like time, identity, style, community and culture. When you design architecture you engage in the act of “placement”, and for your design to be successful, it must communicate.

Architectural “orientation” and “communication” are intrinsically linked.

Increasing Your Building’s Potential

By designing and building, you will experience how “places” grow and expand, get redeveloped, are preserved, demolished or get integrated with another place. Places morph — yet, does this mean that a “sense of place” can change? Sometimes the lifespan of a “place” is short and other times it is long-lived.

Whatever the case, the key is for you to be on the “pulse” of how to contribute to a given condition — by both finding “orientation” and designing for your “landscape”.

You should constantly question what a culture, community or individual needs. Design a vision — not a building that purely meets programmatic requirements, but architecture with a refined sensitivity to “orientation”.

By thinking about how your design is “oriented”, your building will relate to so much more — your “landscape” will become richer and your building’s potential will become greater, more timely and more meaningful.

Image Credit: © Steve Kingsman | Dreamstime

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