Sense of place
‘Your place or mine; the great come on line’ – but what does it mean.
The intriguing thing about place is that you can be thinking about or imagining a place – even one you’ve never been to – while you’re standing in another.
A place can be physical or mental or both at the same time.
We now have the digital place (or is it a digital trance we’re all caught up in). Inner-place or outer-place, this interplay is with us all the time; one or the other comes into focus at different times. Your imagination and dreams play apart in all this.
“You leave a place only if your mind leaves that place.”
—Mehmet Murat Ildan
From that place to this place. That’s me – I was born in one place and moved to the other side of the world to another place and for years I thought of the place I left.
Playing in place as a child, learning about surroundings and the environments around you give you a sense of place, the culture, and create a special bond with connection through family and history. I come from the ‘slums’ surrounded by dirty brick houses that shelter ordinary people’s dreams of freedom, thoughts of knowledge, wealth and a hope that their offspring become part of a bigger world – a world that embraces humankind, a world that’s bigger than the sometimes saddened walls of these small linear houses in this rough but nurtured place.
But these rabbit burrows of homes give warmth, protection and a shared Sense of place, with security from the outside bigger world. I remember the warmth and laughter of my mother who gave me the freedom to be myself, to do what I wanted to do! She protected me but let me go! And so I did…exchanging green belts and dark, industrial stained Mills of the north of England – the PLACE...they call the North on the M1 Motorway sign coming out of London, writ large – for a very different landscape.
Coming as a ‘down under ten quid Pom’, I’ve been here more than 50 years…it’s my spiritual home now…it took me quite a while to feel a sense of place here, but the bond is well and truly there now.
Spirit of place (genius loci) is where it’s at...the Great Southland.
Spirit of place…a belief that particular bits of the world are occupied by Gods, or spirits who have to be propitiated…unique, a point of intense energy, ecosystems, history of place, a respect for what has gone before. As John Muir said, “When one tugs at a simple thing in nature we find it’s attached to the rest of the world”.
I’ve been very lucky to have worked with the First Nation peoples of this great land. It’s been a life changing experience. As a Design company we have worked all over this strong but fragile country – from the Karijini Visitor Centre in the Pilbara in West Australia to Cape York, to the Bowali Visitor Centre and Warradjan Cultural Centre in Kakadu National Park.
In Kakadu, Bill Neidjie told me to listen to this country! In fact, camping with old man and my whole family was life changing for all of us – and when you feel place it never leaves you. Working with lndigenous mob gave me (us) another way of understanding, seeing and smelling country…this place. This special place.
“This is not landscape, it’s home.”
Being in country you can feel a spirit of place…but what about the cities?
Is it possible to strip back all the concrete and asphalt, standing in the middle of a built environment and feel spirit of place – feeling, listening, hearing people that have lived in this place long ago. l believe we can.
I like what Carl Sagan says when he writes ‘the Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena’ – a ‘pale blue dot’. He says: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”
There’s no place like home.