Sense of Place

One of the most important and least understood objectives of campus architecture planning is the creation and preservation of a sense of place. The challenge is that “sense of place” is an abstract concept which is difficult to describe or define because it does not have a unique identity. Yet, when we experience a sense of place, we yearn for a sense of attachment that promotes security, freedom, and familiarity. Massey, Tuan, and Rose are human geographers who have attempted to contextualize the relationship between place and human experience.

These spatial thinkers have advanced the argument a sense of place mediates how humans experience architectural and geographical space. Place matters because it reinforces our sense of institutional pride and allows us to effectively experience campus life. Campuses are places that create a sense of otherness in order to protect the identity of insiders. The problem is that new students face the barriers of being “the other” because their campus experience is limited. New students enter a new strange environment where they are vulnerable to insecurity, alienation, and loneliness. Invariably, they try to find their sense of belonging in order to deal with the loneliness and to connect with their new environment.

Campuses should strive to make their places alive and relevant to the diverse learning community by creating spaces that promote social interaction.

A college campus is a place with special resonance and should have a defining sense of belonging for students, faculty, visitors, and staff. Students respond positively to the physical qualities of a campus. A sense of place can enhance the learning experience and it can enrich the lives of those who interact with the facilities. Campus master planning should adopt a creative philosophy of sense of place which promotes an emotional connection with students.

In the knowledge driven 21st century College education has become a critical aspect of human development. Place matters because prospective students prefer inclusive, well-designed, beautiful, and accommodating institutions. Students need a place where they can call home because the campus environment dominates their lives for several years. They need an environment that promotes intellectual inquiry, social interaction, and civic engagement. Place matters.

A unique sense of place can be created through creatively structured and designed interior spaces, exterior spaces, buildings, landscape, and buildings. All the characteristics of a campus integrate in a meaningful way to produce a unique environment that reinforces sense of community. Place matters in the master planning of campuses because it influences the behavior of students. A person’s interaction with a place affects their behavior and feelings. Knowledge influences feeling and affects the way a person feels about a place.

According to Chapman (1) a sense of place galvanizes pride in the campus and affects the satisfaction of learning communities. The use of place in designs and planning provides opportunities and venues that amplify the learning experiences. Place matters because it matters an incubator of the processes that constitute various modes of learning that take place within the boundaries of the campus. A sense place has a direct impact on the teaching and learning experience.

A campus should strive to promote inclusiveness through the accommodate design of its exterior and interior spaces. In the era of globalization, the campus has become a place for diverse students to lean and interact. Students from abroad and diverse cultural backgrounds need to have a sense of belonging in the campus. Culture shock and unfamiliar settings can cultivate loneliness and disillusionment which can affect the learning experience.

In the 21st century, college campuses have become civic places with an atmosphere of urbanity. Their civic function emanates from the fact that they offer social, cultural, and educational offerings that produce responsible citizens. Their design should embrace cosmopolitanism and promote civic engagement by creating spaces that promote social interaction. Nowadays a campus is an environment that promotes civic engagement.

Architecture continues to have a direct impact on the senses and feelings of the people who interact with the spaces it creates. The body responds, as it has always done, verticality and horizontality, mass, volume, interior spaciousness, and light.” (Tuan 116) Tuan thinks that creating an architectural space clarifies social roles and relations. The environment is no longer nature’s raw stage and it can be modified through human designs. People develop the ability to interact with their spaces in order to have a sense of belonging. In the building process, campuses can define and refine sensibility thereby sharpening and enhancing consciousness. People have a better sense of awareness about interior spaces because of the proximity of interaction. Nowadays, campus buildings and facilities have become symbols within a lot of meanings.

I think that campuses can use innovative designs to create a meaningful educational experience and vibrant campus community.

Tuan focused on the concept of space and place and its connection to the human experience. A place should be designed to provide a sense of home (Tuan 3). The meaning of place in experience denotes a sense of security and freedom. Experience helps students to overcome their vulnerabilities. When I first visited the campus, I feel like UCI was like a perplexing maze. To be honest, I was a little bit afraid of the whole campus. New places do not lived-in experience which is why the campus seemed strange and unfamiliar. Experience is driven by emotions and there is an emotional response to physical places (Tuan 10). The vast and complex special qualities of the UCI campus influenced my first critical first impression as a freshman. Tuan argues that every person begins experiencing space and place as an infant (19). The child’s limited experienced in the world creates a sense of confusion in their very limited worldview. According to Tuan, a person may know a place conceptually and intimately and experience allows us to construct a reality. New students desire a supportive environment that enables them to overcome the vulnerabilities and insecurities of occupying a new place or locality.

During the first few weeks, there was an inability to focus on the campus as a place, which limited my ability to construct a sense of reality. The inability to construct a sense of place can affect a mammal or person’s sense of orientation (Tuan 20). It is for this reason that I found the campus to be a perplexing maze. Slowly, like an infant I began to explore the campus with my sense of touch, smell, and taste. The visual world and increased interaction experience helped to create a sense of familiarity and in began to know the campus intimately. The process of developing a sense of place was gradual, just in the same way as a child grows and learns. In time, I became familiar with the unique combination of landscapes, buildings, exterior spaces, and interior spaces.

In A global Sense of Place, Massey explores the relationship between social relations and geography (167). Those who live in the same geographic location or place have similar worldviews and perception of others. Massey contends that a community is no longer defined as people who live near one another, but a group of people who share the similar experiences and interests. A campus community is group of people sharing the higher learning experience. The sense of place at UCI promotes the sharing of similar interests. There are fraternities, dance studios, sports facilities, and media centre. These places enhance social relations and promote significantly to the cultivation of a sense of belonging in the campus. As such, the campus environment should be designed to promote social relations because it improves the connection to the institution and helps students to evoke a sense of belonging.

Rose Gillian perspective of humanistic geography includes the conceptualization of sense of place as home. The concept of home is not limited to the domestic setting (Rose 53). Massey and Rose concur on the notion of community as a dynamic sense of place. In this context, campuses should be designed to create the enthusiasm of home. Holistic architectural planning influences interior and exterior spaces in a way that it provides a community life (Rose 54). Students can live in direct relationship to the campus as mediated by facilities, open spaces, buildings, pathways, and landscapes. Rose argues that it is critical for space to have a connection for the individual. Humans need to create a connection with a place in order to develop a sense of belonging. Students need to develop intimate relationships with the campus places that help them to develop an emotional attachment which makes the higher learning experience meaningful.

According to Massey, the concept of space and place has been influenced by globalization. Globalization affects the sense of belonging because it introduces dynamism into the idea of place. Certainly, there are no neat boundaries that divide campuses because they are linked to the outside world. At UCI, there are students from all over the world who have left their cultures and homeland in order to experience quality education. The campus environment influences the culture which is a critical resource in developing a sense of community. A sense of belonging can be ensured only when a campus promotes multiculturalism and safety in diversity. Diversity and differences are now important aspects of creating world class learning institutions.

Massey also introduces the notion of otherness in developing a sense of place (147). There is a tendency for places like campuses to develop certain boundaries which protect the identity of members. New students often have to strive to overcome the feeling of otherness. The cultural institution has a way of creating social and perceptual barriers. From my perspective, it is the role of campus architectural master planners to develop a holistic outlook of the place in order to ensure that there are as many places for students to converge as possible. Student convergence helps new students to develop a place identity.

Massey, Tuan, and Rose have differing and similar perspectives on the importance of developing a sense of attachment to a place. Their different perspectives highlight the complexity of understanding how people relate with their space and place. The idea of a sense of place is an abstract idea which is influenced by many different variables including personal experience. The works of Massey, Tuan, and Rose can be confusing and require a careful analysis. Massey provides a global experience and a dynamic sense of community. Tuan views the concept of place from the scale of human experience. The concept of sense of place is dynamic and subjective.

It is fundamentally important to develop a campus that cultivates a sense of belonging. It helps new students to develop a sense of place as they interact with the campus environment. A sense of place helps to integrate the diverse student body. A campus should strive to promote inclusiveness through the accommodative and interactive design of its exterior and interior spaces. In the era of globalization, the campus has become a place for diverse students to learn and interact. The campus has become a second home because students come from distant places. It should be designed to promote social activities which help students to develop relationships. It is clear that students significantly benefit from an engaged campus environment. A sense of place promotes student involvement which acts as a catalyst for other community and institutional improvements. In addition, it can help students to achieve their academic goals.

Woks Cited

Massey, Doreen. A global sense of place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. Print.

Rose, Gillian. Feminism & geography: The limits of geographical knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Print.

Yi-Fuan Tuan. Space and Place: The perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Print.

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