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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Essential Human Qualities in Strengthening Place Identity as Expressed in Louis Kahn’s Architectural Theory

Pp. 22-34 (13)

Susan Noormohammadi


Place identity is a term that has arisen within the past two decades and which has affected architecture considerably. Consequently, architectural space and place are also related to place identity. There are two dimensions for place identity. On one hand, cultural characteristics such as social, historical and geographical factors form the distinctiveness of individual places. On the other hand, some common, unchangeable and essential qualities in human nature are considered to be effective in the formation of similar qualities in different places. This paper signifies similarities of place identity. In this sense, identity is analyzed more through its relation to nature rather than to culture. This approach is argued through the analysis of what is known as ‘essential human qualities’ in the main theories in psychology and phenomenology. Consequently, with reference to the main objectives in Gaston Bachelard’s (1964) theory, the relationship between natural human needs and desires in architectural space is argued. This theory provides the basis upon which the essential human qualities in Louis Kahn’s architectural approach are analyzed. This part gives an insight into how place identity is related to Louis Kahn’s theory. In the conclusion, it is presented that a significant fundamental need to return to essential human qualities in architectural discourse exists. This paper argues that it is necessary to attain the levels of space which are very humane. In this sense, space can possess unique and special qualities which are ‘true’, ‘pure’, ‘simple’, ‘familiar’, ‘intimate’, and ‘free’. When an architectural space is deeply experienced, perceived, and appreciated, then we can expect to achieve a place which is more intimate with our human identity.


Place identity, essential, human nature, natural human needs, meaning, louis kahn, architectural space.


Faculty of Architecture, University of College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran