As designers, we have established a series of false dichotomies:
Fine art vs. pop culture
Artistic purity vs. pragmatic populism
Artists and architects vs. the movie and entertainment industry
Design theory vs. strategic planning
Additionally, we have established a series of dogmatic statements which, depending on one’s point of view, are either foundational principles or ludicrous and pejorative assertions:
Pragmatism without design principles = kitsch
Design theory without an understanding of behavioral psychology creates cold, hard places
Only architects understand how to create beauty (primarily visual)
Only entertainers understand how to capture imaginations through stories and metaphors (5 senses)
CityWalk is popular but not beautiful or timeless
The Salk Institute is beautiful but empty
The best places, however, the most timeless places, combine both the purist and the pragmatic schools of thought:
Prague’s Old Town Square
Siena’s Piazza del Campo
New York City’s Rockefeller Center and Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden
Must timeless beauty and effective pragmatism, sense and sensibility, be mutually exclusive?
genius loci |ˈjēnēəs ˈlōsī; -kī|
noun [in sing.] the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place.
the presiding god or spirit of a place.
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: Latin, literally ‘spirit of the place.’
Genius loci. The ‘spirit of a place,’ the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place, of a destination. In more common parlance, ‘Sense of Place.’ A modified version of a definition from Answers.com:
Either the intrinsic character of a place, or the meaning people give to it, but, more often, a mixture of both. Some places are distinctive through their physical appearance, like the Grand Canyon; others are distinctive, but have value attached to them, like the Piazza San Marcos in Venice. Less striking places have meaning and value attached to them because they are ‘home,’ and it is argued that attachment to a place increases with the distinctiveness of that place. Planners use this argument by consciously creating or preserving memorable and singular architecture to make a space distinctively different. Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and, in an entirely different manner, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens are all examples of distinctively different places, destinations designed from the start to create genius loci. All this is done to encourage in people an attachment to that place.
A final element is our own experience of that place; if you had been extremely happy in central London, the sight of Trafalgar Square would reawaken a sense of pleasure in you. (http://www.answers.com/topic/sense-of-place)
GDW created this blog as an ideas forum dedicated to the design theory behind the creation of great destinations, places and architecture, the human psychology behind peoples’ responses to places and architecture, and the methodology necessary to create design excellence, to craft genius loci.
This forum is a depository of ideas, a research resource, and ultimately a tool to create new ideas. We will discuss the elements common to great places, study the distinctiveness created by inventive architecture, and exam fractal design theory.