The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments

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In an era of globalization, where the progressive deterioration of local values is a dominating characteristic, identity is seen as a fundamental need that encompasses all aspects of human life. One ...
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Place, Place Identity, and Phenomenology: A Triadic Interpretation Based on J.G. Bennett’s Systematics

Pp. 3-21 (19)

David Seamon


As recent phenomenological studies have demonstrated (Casey 1997, 2009; Malpas 1999, 2006; Mugerauer 2008; Stefanovic 2000), the phenomenon of place is a multivalent structure sophisticated and complex in its existential constitution. In this chapter, I offer one phenomenological vantage point from which to examine this lived complexity. I contend that, as an integral structure of human life, place can be understood in terms of three dimensions: first, the geographical ensemble— i.e., the material environment, including both its natural and human-made dimensions; second, peoplein- place, including individual and group actions, intentions, and meanings; and, third, spirit of place, or genius loci. Drawing on the conceptual approach of “systematics” developed by the British philosopher J.G. Bennett, I argue that these three dimensions can engage in six different ways, each of which relates to one particular lived mode whereby place contributes to human life. These six modes are: (1) place interaction, (2) place identity, (3) place creation, (4) place intensification, (5) place realization, and (6) place release. I argue that place identity is important to understand the nature of place but is complemented by other modes of relationship that together help clarify the complexity and richness of place and place experience.


Place, place identity, place attachment, place making, place as lifeworld, phenomenology of place.


Department of Architecture, 211 Seaton Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-2901, USA