Authentic Experience and Minor Place-making
Authentic Experience and Minor Placemaking This paper explores concepts relating to 'place' with a view to understanding the capacity and role of minor places in contributing to authentic experience. By and large extraordinary places attract attention while ordinary places do not. A pilot study group of students was asked to discuss their favourite place and most respondents talked about a beautiful natural environment. Another, wider, study reinforced the attraction of natural places. In contrast, a sampling of senior urban designers identified distinctive urban places of vitality as their favourite place. All groups spoke of authentic experiences. People rarely talk about the ordinary places where they spend most of their life undertaking everyday activities, is it because ordinary places are not regarded as authentic? One of the strongest forces in contemporary global tourism is a search for authentic experience. Our experience of travel tells us that a place can be attractive to people and have a distinctive 'sense of place' because it has unique human made identity, activity and vitality that is authentic to the location. This can happen even when there are no characteristics that lift the place beyond the ordinary. Distinctiveness can also be present notwithstanding the attributes of the enveloping natural environment. Developing a better understanding of human emotions, experience, attachment, symbolism and memory, all of which have a strong role in the ordinary places most people inhabit, may provide a way forward. But how well are urban designers equipped to ensure that meaningful elements are imbedded in designs? Some aspects are ephemeral and possibly actually removed from the capacity of design to make a difference, being as they are invested with meaning through authentic individual and collective occupancy. This largely depends on personal experiences, unless there are strong community unifying symbolic aspects. The concept of 'place' implies personal connection with people and cultural 'sense of place' reflects a shared human engagement with the essence of the place. How mature urban design epistemology is to address these issues is a question that is also probed. Keywords: authentic urban experience; minor urban place-making; urban design epistemology.
Designing Place: International Urban Design Conference, Proceedings
Architecture not elsewhere classified