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

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Social Sciences & Humanities, Scopus, EBSCO.

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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Wither Genius Loci?: The City, Urban Fabric and Identity in Perth, Western Australia

Pp. 209-227 (19)

Felicity Morel-Edniebrown


In the face of global interconnectivity where homogenization of culture is endemic, what price individuality and sense of the authentic? While commercial corporate identity is rampant, showing the same branding in Prague as in Pittsburgh, where stands the differentiated meaning of cities and what creates their sense of individuality? This paper will argue that a sustainable and culturally enriched engagement with place primarily comes from understanding the context of the place — its history, its layered meanings and the contexts that individuals draw from their understandings of their physical environment, mediated by their past experience. It will propose that ‘sense of place’ (‘genius loci’) is the physical manifestation of authenticity and outline a simple model for understanding authenticity. It will draw upon examples from Perth, Western Australia to show how the topography and interpretation of the city’s historical connection to water still is a defining factor for city development and how memories of the built environment in the inner city have strongly influenced residents’ sense of place and, by extension, their sense of self.


Genius loci, sense of place, historical cities, modern cities, interpretation, authenticity, heritage, built environment.


Department of Humanities, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Department of Planning, Perth, Western Australia