Understanding “Sense of Place”
I am a firm believer that you need to spend quality time in a place to understand the nuances that make it what it is. This is essentially it’s “sense of place”. It might be something about the architecture, the interior, the people who are there, the landscape, the smells and sounds – or likely all of these – that make up the soul of a place. The French term “je ne sais quoi” is just this.
As an architect we spend a lot of time designing our projects. We pay particular attention to building the right framework for our clients, so the environment will meet their needs. But only after they have moved in and spent considerable time there can you begin to grasp the project’s sense of place. It takes people and the thousands of interactions over a period of time for these things to develop.
For several years now a group of Fox staff and friends has gathered Friday mornings in the summer to sketch. Last year, we paid particular focus to the areas around Benton Park. As the weather turned colder, a few die hard sketchers decided to continue on Friday mornings at the Mudd House on Cherokee. There are two good reasons for meeting at the Mudd House. First, they open at seven. Second, the coffee and food is excellent.
Most Friday mornings there is as much conversation than sketching. We’ve sat at every table, and sketched just about everything in the room. There is a lot of sketching of people, which is a good thing for architects (historically bad at drawing people due to the lack of straight lines!). After spending so much time here, we are all beginning to understand the Mudd House’s unique Sense of Place. It’s as comfortable as an old leather chair.