The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Friday, 27 June 2008


I remember that in the movie American Beauty identity was satirized as ´sold´ and reduced to prepackaged lifestyle. Life was something shallowly constructed on the ´I am what I consume´. If it is about consuming goods, services and places that generate pleasurable experiences then could the concept of identity be reduced to ´I am what I experience´? Could a place in that case provide the basis for individual identity as always embodied, housing the possibilities of seeing, feeling and smelling the surroundings?

According to John Urry people will gain less satisfaction from continuing to do what they have always done. Their daily life will become less to do with collective memories and experiences and they will look more for immediate pleasure. Being a tourist is an exception of time, a period of (self)explorations and differences. The tourist is kind of pilgrim, seeking authenticity in other ´times´ and other ´places´ away from everyday life.

A place depends first and foremost on information about the way people perceive, remember and talk about
surroundings. The relationship that people develop with their home surrounding is intensely personal and relational to the passage of time. It is not the question of right or wrong, or better or more valuable, more significant, more important. Ask ten trained and experienced urban/spatial professionals to record their space perception of a particular setting and you will get ten different results. This also applies when you ask the same thing from ten inhabitants of the same neighbourhood.

Lacan has described identity as “[...] something that is not always already present but comes into being ´from the place of Other”. To describe local identity one needs to know something about what aspects of the lives and surroundings of people lead them to identify and perhaps come to value particular objects, features or locations in their daily routes, both consciously and subconsciously.
Or how do people experience, remember and communicate about identity? Does the spatial setting and timing affect narratives of identity? How can planners/ designers identify local narratives of place identity and use them in urban design? What is the importance of a public space and urban design in small communities? Could designer give form to objects/ public spaces that bring out locality?

The design of the environment is a physical and three-dimensional manifestation of place identity. It is the relationship between all these individual elements - site, space or building - that gives places their character and identity. In my opinion the purpose of spatial design is to create, reproduce or mould identities of places through manipulation of activities, feelings, meanings into place identity. It is a selective way of imagining, acting and communicating about the place.

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