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In Professor Ali Madanipour’s lecture ‘Design Of Neighbourhoods’, he navigated through the history and development of the neighbourhood concept, picking up on pivotal case studies and a series of key principles that are still relevant in the modern-day. At the beginning of the lecture, he asked the group to consider what our experiences of a neighbourhood are. Some of the most common themes that emerged were the notions of social bonding, community, memory and a sense of place. Ali highlighted that through these factors, a person will naturally possess a completely different sense towards a place if they have grown up there, as opposed to someone who has not, and it is this observation that particularly captured my interest.

Through my own experience of growing up in Newcastle, I feel that memory has a direct effect on the value of the urban environment and places in cities, where positive and negative experiences influence the level of attachment. Furthermore, a place that seems to have negligible or zero value to one city native, may bear a huge amount of significance to another through the medium of experience and memory.

I feel that a natural starting point is to consider how we differentiate between the terms ‘place’ and ‘space’. Personally, I feel that ‘place’ as a term alludes to an entity that is emotionally invested, perhaps a ‘space’ that has been transformed into ‘place’ through the introduction of human life and activity. In ‘Spaces for the Sacred’, Philip Sheldrake portrays similar ideas, stating that ‘the concept of place refers not simply to geographical location but to a dialectical relationship between environment and human narrative. Place is space that has the capacity to be remembered and to evoke what is most precious’.[1] Here, Sheldrake appears to be suggesting that ‘place’ has additional layers of complexity when compared with ‘space’, and it is ultimately a relationship with ‘environment and human narrative’ that elevates ‘place’ to a higher level of significance, reinforcing my thoughts.

Furthermore, in ‘The Phenomenon of Place’, Christian Norberg-Schulz also supports this stance by suggesting that ‘space’ is simply ‘three-dimensional geometry’, whilst ‘place’ can be viewed as ‘lived space’, again, underlining the significance of human connection in adding meaning to ‘space’.[2]

Taking these ideas on ‘space’ and ‘place’ forward, I believe it can be argued that memory is one of the key elements involved in this transition from ‘space’ to ‘place’, adding value to the environment in the process.

The philosopher Edward Casey addressed the relationship between ‘place’ and memory in ‘Remembering: A Phenomenological Study’, where he suggested that ‘memory is naturally place-oriented or at least place-supported’, and ‘place’ essentially acts as ‘a container of experiences’.[3] In a sense, the world we live in is continuously serving as the backdrop to our lives, so therefore, when we recall the most memorable moments experienced to date, the ‘place’ that facilitated a certain experience naturally forms a significant part of that memory. As a result, the ‘places’ where important, positive moments in life occurred are accordingly remembered with fondness, as well as feelings of sentimentality and nostalgia. It could then be said, that these ‘places’ are more valuable to an individual due to the memories associated with them.

In a similar vein to Edward Casey, Edward Relph defined ‘places’ as ‘the significant centres of our immediate experiences of the world’,[4] whilst also expanding on the value of ‘place’ to the individual. In ‘Prospects for Places’, he declared that ‘places’ are ‘important sources of individual and communal identity, and are often profound centres of human existence to which people have deep emotional and psychological ties’.[5] It could be interpreted that Relph is suggesting ‘places’ essentially become part of who we are through our experiences and memories, particularly when they are so influential in shaping us as people throughout our learning and development. Furthermore, it could be argued that in ‘places’ where the ‘extension of human identity into our environment’[6] has occurred through experiences and memories, the value of that environment has increased.

By referring to a personal example, I feel that this notion of added value through memory can be demonstrated quite clearly. The image below of ‘Fenkle Street’ in Newcastle, a road that is situated behind the O2 Academy music venue, depicts nothing more than a quiet back-road for the majority of people. For me, however, this is the ‘place’ where I was lucky enough to meet some of my favourite bands, people who have been hugely influential in my life so far. Through the happy memories of these chance encounters, the ‘place’ shown takes on much greater significance and value for me personally, whereas, for most it would mean very little. Equally, there will be many ‘places’ across the city of Newcastle that bear no value to me at all, yet could be incredibly important to others.

Figure 1: The View Down Fenkle Street, Behind The O2 Academy, Newcastle

Taking this all into account, I feel that my stance on ‘place’ and added value through memory is justified, particularly when the theories discussed are applied to real-life.


References:

[1] Philip Sheldrake, Spaces For The Sacred (London: SCM Press, 2001), p. 1.

[2] Christian Norberg-Schulz, ‘The Phenomenon Of Place’, in The Urban Design Reader, ed. by Michael Larice and Elizabeth Macdonald (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), pp. 125-137 (p. 129).

[3] Dolores Hayden, ‘Place Memory And Urban Preservation’, in The Urban Design Reader, ed. by Michael Larice and Elizabeth Macdonald (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), pp. 194-203 (p. 195).

[4] Edward Relph, ‘Prospects For Places’, in The Urban Design Reader, ed. by Michael Larice and Elizabeth Macdonald (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), pp. 119-124 (p. 120).

[5] Ibid., p. 120.

[6] Kent C. Bloomer and Charles W. Moore, Body, Memory, And Architecture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 131.

Featured Image Reference:

Chronicle Live, 40 Fabulous Images Of Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge (2018) <https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/local-news/gallery/40-fabulous-images-newcastles-tyne-12646082> [Accessed 18 January 2019].

Figure 1 Reference:

Photo By Robert Graham, Geograph, View Down Fenkle Street, Newcastle (2016) <https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4977737> [Accessed 18 January 2019].

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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